IMAGINE has worked with the Jordan River Foundation (JRF) since 2012 and during that time many thousands of women, and now men, have been touched by the Empowerment Workshop.
The work with Jordan is important because it represents IMAGINE’s first significant impact in a Muslim country and it has led the way for this work in the larger Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. See Jordan Impact Studies. Especially gratifying has been the positive impact of the Empowerment Workshop on Syrian refugees. Arranged by themes, what follows is a summary of quotes transcribed from extensive interviews conducted with Jordanian women as well as Syrian refugees who have participated in the four-day Empowerment Workshop. Their words offer an infusion of hope!
Belief in Self
- I have my worth in the home.
- I have a safe place in myself.
- I hated myself. I was not respecting myself. I didn’t even like to look in the mirror. For the first time in my life, I have the courage to face myself. I realize my worth.
- Empowerment gave me self-esteem. Now I know what I want and how I can get it.
- I want to live my life to the fullest. I have never felt this before.
- Before the training, I was fearful. I had low self-esteem and was not confident.
After the training, I am much better. I am not 100 percent confident or empowered. I still get fearful sometimes and even forget I can speak up. But I speak up more and more. I started believing in my rights and I now know I deserve to have rights. And I realize I have to do my part
- I was not confident. I was always nervous. I hated myself. I never spoke my mind. In the workshop I overcame my fears. Now I speak up and I am calmer.
Voice, Saying No, Time for Oneself, and Balance
- My family is not used to me speaking up and saying my thoughts. They are very surprised. I know I need to be patient about the changes I want for my life, but I also know that I will continue to speak up.
- Before, I did not know how to communicate ideas; now I am careful of how I choose my words, of how to frame what I want. I use the right words at the right time. I have the courage to ask for things and to know that I have a right to my own ideas.
- The first thing I wanted was to learn to drive. I asked my husband and he said, “No.” He does not like women who drive. He said women should not drive. In the workshop I learned how to talk with him and how to communicate. I made him coffee and asked if we could talk. I did that for many days. Then I began to tell him about how I have needs. I said, just like he has needs, so do I. He began to listen. Then I asked again if I could learn to drive. We talked about how much easier it would be for our family. I said it politely, but I said it with confidence. I also told him how much I have given to his family. His sister lives with us and I have made it work. Now I am taking driving lessons.
- Before the training, I would never say no to my family. Culturally it is very difficult to do that. It is not allowed. You need to follow men’s orders. The workshop taught me I could say no. And I learned to say no. This was very big for me. I never thought it was possible. The training gave me the support and tools that I needed to make changes in my life. Because of training, I knew I wanted a man who gave me my own voice. Now I have a voice with my husband. With my family I have one, too. This came with time.
- Before the Empowerment Workshop, I would help everyone, my mother included. No one would help me. I would work very late into the night to get all my work done. I was always exhausted and I never gave time for myself. Now I know I need to find time for myself. I still do my job, take care of my husband and my children, but I also take care of myself.
- My exit strategy was to cry. I would use tears to get out of responsibility for things. By the end of the training, I learned crying is not a solution. I needed to act. Now I understand myself better.
- My Empowerment Workshop trainer took me from a place where there was so much sadness; now, I cry from joy. I had so many people close to me who died, and the memories of them kept me sad all the time, memories of both those who died and also those who left me. I really let the loss affect me. I was always so sad and depressed. It was not easy, but I really worked on myself in the workshop. For the first time I can see that the past is not my entire life. I am hopeful.
- I forgave other people and myself. I feel freer.
- This Empowerment Workshop is the only place that I have ever openly expressed what I feel and what I believe. After the training, I am more able to express what I feel deep inside and I know how important it is to do this. This makes me calmer.
- Before the workshop I was afraid to tell others about my feelings. I was afraid that if I told them, I would lose them. After the training, I realized how important it was to express my feelings. I now express my feelings more often and I always feel much better when I do.
- My relationship with my husband and my children was the greatest change for me in this training. Before the Empowerment Workshop I was dealing with my husband and my children in the same way as my mother dealt with her husband and family. I used the same body language and the same way of interacting. It was the old traditional way. I was always being silent, not saying what was on my mind, not moving freely, and only taking orders from my husband. I was always under my husband’s control. After the training, I acted differently based on different situations. I began talking to my husband and telling him my thoughts. I began talking to my children and taking more control.
- Because of the Empowerment Workshop, I talked openly with my father and mother. We had a real, open communication. This was the first time I ever told my parents what was really on my mind.
- I have a temper. I would raise my voice and I would not know how to act. My temper would come over me and I would just wait until it finished. After the workshop I know I can say something without yelling. I try to choose the right words and I say it in a polite way at the right time. Before this workshop, I had real problems with self-control. It was very difficult. I was violent. In some cases, I would beat my children when I was angry. Since the training, it is very different. Now I think before I let my temper go and I think before I go to hit. I take care of my family in a different way. Even my children ask, “When are you going for more empowerment training? They say, “Things are good when you go.” My husband too! In the beginning he did not want me to go. Now he asks, “When are you going again?”
- Before empowerment, my husband would deal with the children in a bad way. He would hit them and yell at them. I was sad but could not say anything about it. While in the Empowerment Workshop I said to him, “I do not care if we get a divorce, you need to deal with me and the children in the right way!” He listened to me. He is much better. He stills yells sometimes but he is not so angry. He does not hit them.
- I have new goals for my health. I want to eat healthy food and lose weight. And I want to cook healthy food for myself and for my family.
- My daughter has diabetes. Before the training I was always in fear about losing her. I was always afraid I would wake up in the morning and find her dead. Because of the Empowerment Workshop I went to a training to learn about how to stabilize and control the diabetes. I now have inner peace about this.
- After my mother-in-law got cancer and died, I was afraid to get checked. After the workshop I had the courage to get checked and they found three benign tumors. Now I know how important it is to take care of myself and to get a checkup every year.
Money and Work
- Because of this workshop I was promoted. I set a goal, I got nominated, I challenged myself to do it, and I did very well. I now have a higher position and I make more money.
- After the Empowerment Workshop I had my vision to build a stable income to help my family. I am divorced and it is hard. My daughter has diabetes so I need to help her. I love cooking and I really wanted to use my cooking skills. I wanted to work at a reputable place so I applied to the Hyatt Hotel. When I took the exam, my confidence was strong from the workshop. I passed the exam and I started cooking at the hotel. My next vision is to buy my own house.
- I wanted to open my own business doing crafts. I felt I could not succeed. I was afraid I would fail and I was always confused. I did not know what to do. My family, my husband, sons, and daughters, all told me I was too old to open a business. My oldest son kept telling me it would not work, that I would never succeed. Because of the Empowerment Workshop I realized I could actually shape my life and work on my visions. I learned that I had the ability to be persistent and I had the power inside me. I just needed to work a bit on myself. I worked hard on myself, and now I have opened my knitting business. I am selling some of my embroidery and knitting. I had an exhibition at Jordan University and I sold some things. This is just the beginning.
- My husband and I opened a supermarket. This changed our relationship. It is much better and we communicate in a new way. We also plan to open another branch of the supermarket.
- After the Empowerment Workshop I started to connect what I had studied in child education with what I wanted to do for my work. I started thinking about opening a business in child care. My mother’s house is big, so why not open a nursery and child care center? I could teach and use what I studied and run a business like I have always wanted. I started planning this in small ways. Before my husband never gave me money each month. But now I asked him and now he gives me money and I save it carefully. I got a bus for my child care center. Step by step I am getting ready and soon I will open my nursery.
- Another big change for me because of the Empowerment Workshop was in the area of spirituality. Even though I am Muslim and I am supposed to be religious, I had no time. I was not with God or giving God enough time. After the workshop I made this a high priority and now I am connected and spiritually happy. And I am using my spiritual gifts to empower other women.
- I am supposed to go to Madaba [a city in Jordan] every Monday for the Koran and I want very much to study the Koran. But many times I could not go because my work in the house wasn’t finished. Now I go every Monday. I say no to other things and I make time to go. This was very hard for my husband. But I told him, if I am happy then you will be so much happier, because then I will truly want to do things for you instead of just having to do them.
- I now am involved in a new Koran training that I go to regularly. And I have become a teacher for twelve boys. It’s so fulfilling for me.
- In the workshop we applied the empowerment methodology to our Muslim faith. We asked what our fondest dreams were for our faith and what we needed to do to fulfill those dreams. For many of us we deepened and grew in our faith.
Passing Forward What We Learn in the Workshop
- I am teaching what I learned to my older daughter: to have a safe place in herself, to love herself. My daughter is now getting better grades in school. She is learning to balance her study and her duties at home. She is learning to remember herself and take time for herself.
- Because of the workshop I got my daughter a car to go to work. I learned how important it is for her to be independent.
- I insisted that my daughter take the Empowerment Workshop because I wanted her to become a stronger and more powerful woman. After the training my daughter changed dramatically. She had not finished high school but she loved knitting and embroidery. Now she has savings from her work and she wants to start a business. From the workshop, I taught my daughter the importance of having money and being independent. Now she is even telling her brother that he needs to take the empowerment training.
- My husband has been depressed and angry. After the empowerment training, I told him how beautiful he was. I told him how much I believed in him. And I told him that he could make things happen in his life. I did many of the exercises from the workshop with him. Now he believes in himself. He is not so angry as before.
- As the manager of some of the women who went through the Empowerment Workshop, I have noticed important changes in them. They are more productive, better able to communicate, and more understanding of each other. So I can rely on them more. And through the training they lost their fear and shyness of telling me what they want. These women are now leaders in our organization. They have inspired the rest of the team. They step up and talk and try to help the others. They are passing on what they learned.
Submitted by Adeeba Hejazi, Shatha Habahbeh, and Theresa McGahran
See Gail Straub's Huffington Post article, "An Antidote for ISIS: Jordan’s Hospitality Can Be Our Guide."