FOR HER: Youth movement to challenge workplace discrimination against women

August 7, 2022
Photo:UNDP Jordan

Laha (For Her) and initiative that was kickstarted by four young women and men, to lobby for more protection for women in the workplace from discrimination due to their marital status. It was common in their community that women are fired and harassed at work once they decide to get married as their employers do not want to keep them and have to pay them when they get pregnant. “none of us haven’t known a woman who have face such discrimination in the workplace and it is time to put an end to it”.

Madelene, Farah, Saba, Dolameh, Mohammad, and Hala are one of UNDP youth initiative teams as part of the Youth Leadership Programme . The programme aims to empower a generation of young leaders, changemakers, and social innovators, to grow their capacity in tackling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their countries and the Arab region. 

Laha Team worked together to advocate for women workers' rights and affect the decision-makers. "How can I claim my friend's right, who hid her pregnancy from the employer, and when he figures it out, he was going to terminate her contract arbitrarily!" said Farah. They are in the process of establishing a hotline in the Ministry of Labor to receive complaints of workplace discrimination and they initiated an awareness raising campaign to inform women of their labour rights. They also recommend forming a specialized committee within the Ministry of Labor to deal with protection for women in the workplace from discrimination due to their marital status. 

In Jordan, women outnumber and outperform men in universities. But despite their educational achievements, they are much more likely to be unemployed or to drop out of the labour force than men. Around 77% of unemployed women in Jordan have a bachelor’s degree or higher. The unemployment rate for men who attended higher education is four times lower, at around 26%. This is due to mobility issues, access to fair benefits, and a lack of gender enabling work environment. In addition to limiting social and cultural norms.

Women workers are entitled to maternity leave with full pay for ten weeks including rest before and after delivery. Leave after delivery shall be no less than six weeks long and employment before the expiry of such a period shall be prohibited. After expiry of the maternity leave period every woman worker is entitled, within one year of delivery, to take time off with pay for the purpose of nursing her newborn baby, provided that total time off does not exceed one hour a day. Employers with at least twenty married women workers in their employment shall provide an adequate facility under the care of a trained nurse for the women workers' children under four years of age, if at least ten of them are in such an age group. 

However, there are no laws in Jordan prohibiting gender discrimination in the workplace. Legal provisions like paid maternity leave and childcare are often circumvented by employers, and sometimes used as reasons not to hire more women. Similarly, there are no laws addressing harassment in the workplace.

How did the initiative start?

The team decided to conduct a questionnaire to assess the issue of discrimination better. They interviewed 21 women and they noticed that majority of the cases reported were in the private sector.  They also stated that a lot of women do not know their rights in the labor law and hence do not know their employers cannot fire them because they got engaged/married or expecting a baby. For Her team, started a blogpost for women to document cases of discrimination and it can be accessed here. “We are responsible to share the stories of women and pressuring employers to put an end to this type of injustice” said Mohammad. They also included a section about important labor law articles so working women know their rights. 

A study published by Sadaqa in 2016 showed that companies could save up to US$1 million a year by providing working women with childcare. According to the ILO, women working in Jordan’s private sector earn on average 40 per cent less than their male counterparts. In the public sector the pay gap is around 28 per cent, and in both sectors, there is a higher concentration of women in lower paid jobs. Jordanian labor law has no provision guaranteeing the right to equal remuneration for work of equal value.

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