KHF Outreach
Societal Perceptions Play Larger Role in Upbringing of Girls than Law or Media - Initial Findings of New Survey by IRC
30th March 2011
 
The Information and Research Center - King Hussein Foundation - released the initial findings of a national survey entitled, "To be a Girl in Jordan: A Legal and Cultural Bias" during a presentation to childhood development experts, women activists, attorneys, and members of the media this week.
 
The random survey of more than 2,000 households in Jordan, funded by the USAID Rule of Law Project, was designed to focus on raising awareness of the girl child's rights and advocate for policy changes towards gender equity in the law.
 
The survey, which aimed to contextually map the state of the girl child in Jordan, surveyed the parents of Jordanian families in six different cities: Aqaba, Greater Amman, Irbid, Mafraq, Karak and Zarka. The majority of respondents came from families earning between 150 and 300 JDs per month (39.8%) and families earning between 300 and 500 JDs per month (33.3%).
 
The objective of the survey, according to the IRC, is to analyze respondents' perceptions of how their opinions and
practices are influenced by tradition, society, family, tribe, law and media. The IRC's initial findings indicate that the influence of the law, the media, and the tribe on people's opinions and practices related to the girl child is low:
 
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Meanwhile, the influence of traditions, society and family on people's opinions and practices related to the girl child is found to be considerable:
 
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IRC Director Nermeen Murad said the initial findings indicate that "Our upbringing of girls is informed by our perception of how society will see our daughters and whether it will impact whether they get married and have a normal life."
 
While the initial findings still have to be analyzed, Murad noted, "We were surprised by how little the law has an impact. It means that people are not perceiving the law as a guarantor of rights and their relationship with the law is not a relationship of rights, so that's quite surprising."
 
"I think the information is probably what people know intuitively, but don't have hard data," remarked Mr. Walter Kuencer, Chief of Party for the Rule of Law Project. "Having the hard data allows people who want to take this to an advocacy stage to be able to talk about this."
 
And that's exactly what Rana Husseini, journalist, human rights activist, and author of "Murder in the Name of Honour" hopes will result from the study:
 
"I think it's a wake up call for our community, our decision makers, and everyone involved in the work of family matters," said Husseini. "We have a problem, now it's on paper, it's going to be analyzed, it's going to be discussed further, so this is very important, and I think this is how change starts."
 
The next step, according to the IRC, is to analyze the data, produce a manual for health workers, and launch a website and help KHF's other programs use the results of the survey to formulate their own interventions in these areas.
 
Amal Haddadin, Legal Advisor to the Jordan National Commission for Women (JNCW) said the survey's initial findings concerning this age group are very important, because the "participation of women in the political life, in the economic life, is very very weak."
 
Save the Children's Muna Abbas remarked that the survey is a very good starting point; but she hopes that the IRC will build on it in order to address these issues. While the survey focused on the father or mother's response to questions, Abbas said she believes the media has a strong influence on young girls and teenagers:
 
"We focus on appearance, how to look beautiful, how to have a family," said Abbas, "very superficial things but we do not go in-depth to really empower women and girls at this stage."
 
Nowhere was that more evident than in the magazine photo collage workshop portion of the project. Creative Arts Therapist Reem Abu Kishek worked with groups of 15-to-17 year old girls in seven different communities in Jordan. Using images from magazines, the girls were asked to express how they perceive their own role in society.
 
"We learned that the girls oftentimes see they don't really have much of a role," remarked Kishek. "They have a role in terms of the domestic responsibilities in the household, but when it comes to their voice in society on a larger scale, it's very limited."
 
This response was echoed in the survey which shows that female children perform a higher percentage of household chores than male children.
 
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The collage workshops also revealed that the girl child has a lot of interference from the male figures in her family, and that the interference comes at a very young age.
 
"If they're choosing to leave the household to go visit a female friend," said Kishek,"there's a lot of interference of a brother saying 'I'm going to chaperone you, I'm going to take be taking you, you can't go out alone.'"
 
The images from the magazine collages will also be analyzed along with the results of the survey. The USAID Rule of Law-funded project officially ends in May.
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