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Initiative Empowers Young Women in Jordan's Sports Sector

May 3, 2024

While Jordan has made strides in recent years toward greater gender equality, Jordanian women continue to face significant challenges, including in areas such as work force and economic participation. These persisting gender inequalities have led to targeted cross-sector efforts in the country to empower and employ women.

Recently, the "Goal for Life" program, launched by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in partnership with the Jordan Ministry of Youth, has shown success in addressing the specific needs and aspirations of young women in Jordan's sports sector. The program has completed its third phase and is focused on employing more college graduates in the fitness industry.

Despite recent progress, Jordan continues to rank low on World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index, a longstanding annual ranking of the current state and evolution of gender parity across the world. The Index looks at country progress across four key dimensions: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival and Political Empowerment. In 2023, Jordan ranked 126 overall out of the 146 countries reporting (ranking 125 in economic participation and opportunity). Female labor force participation was below 15% in 2021 and the gender pay gap in the public sector was nearly 13% in 2018, according to figures issued by the Department of Statistics.

The ILO Decent Work for Women Program partnered with the Jordanian Ministry of Youth and the Mudarrib sports consulting company to launch Goal for Life in 2020. The program trains unemployed university graduates with physical education degrees to pursue jobs in fitness centers, educational institutions and sports facilities. Accreditation of personal trainers, training for youth at existing youth centers and job creation for young Jordanian women are part of the initiative. It also fights to end stereotypes on women’s capabilities that have negatively impacted their access to work force opportunities in Jordan. This collaborative project was supported by UN Women and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

Goal for Life initially had 88 trainees, almost all of whom have now secured employment contracts in Jordan, Oman and Saudi Arabia, or are self-employed. It has since improved the skills of over 200 female physical education graduates and improved their access to decent jobs in gyms, schools and sports centers. Minister of Youth, Mohammad Nabulsi, and Swedish Ambassador to Jordan, Alexandra Rydmark, were in attendance for the first graduation ceremony of program participants.

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"The program added a lot to us personally in terms of behaviors as trainers and how to deal with clients professionally, in addition to the cognitive aspect that helped me develop a clear action plan and basic guidelines to organize my thoughts and define my goals in line with the clients' objectives," said program participant Nada Mustafa.

The first two phases helped provide the local labor market with qualified trainers. The program is now in its third phase with an eye towards long-term sustainability. Tareq Abu Mailesh, founder and manager of Mudarrib said they are now focused on preparing participants for the global labor market through international accreditations from organizations like EuropeActive. "The project not only provided the participants with essential practical skills but also equipped them with the knowledge and experience necessary to excel in the fitness sector," he said.

ILO Gender Specialist and Manager of the Decent Work for Women Program, Reem Aslan, emphasized that the project aligns closely with the ILO strategy on skills and lifelong learning 2030. The strategy provides inclusive access to high quality skills development and lifelong learning opportunities.

"Goal for Life educated participants on their labor rights and duties under Jordan's labor and social security laws. This education helps foster a decent work environment that enhances productivity and commitment,” said Aslan. "The project reaffirms the vital role of the sports sector, a non-traditional field for women’s employment, in boosting women's economic participation in Jordan.”

Initiatives like Goal for Life are hopefully shifting the trajectory for women in the country towards a future where every individual has the opportunity to make significant contributions to society. This includes breaking down barriers in traditionally male-dominated fields like sports, paving the way for women to grow and excel on equal footing.


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