Hopes for Women in Education, a recently established non-profit organisation, is helping women from Jordan’s most disadvantaged communities get the education that many deserve but few can afford.
The organisation aims to provide funding for post-secondary education and skills training to refugee, displaced and non-status women in Jordan and elsewhere in the region who cannot continue their education due to financial hardship, co-founder Noora Sharrab told The Jordan Times at a recent orientation meeting for university students from refugee camps.
"We began with taking on only two full university scholarships in Jordan. This year, through fundraising efforts and generous donors, we were able to support 12 university applicants," Sharrab said. "We are also working with Khawarizmi College, which has generously provided us with three free full-time two-year diplomas yearly.”
According to Sharrab, the organisation, which is registered in both Jordan and Canada, raised almost JD15,000 this year, collecting donations through micro-fundraising efforts such as bake sales as well as private donations from individuals and corporations and full sponsorships from donors for students.
"The scholarships cover full tuition fees, plus a stipend of JD250 per semester for each student. The approximate cost for tuition and stipend for each girl is JD2,000 on average. Some are a lot lower and some higher depending on the majors the students are studying." The 27-year-old told The Jordan Times.
In addition to funding university study for disadvantaged women, the group also aims to teach them skills that will help them make the most of their lives and careers.
"As part of our mission to advance the level of education, we seek to assist women in becoming more self-sufficient and independent in their lives through vocational counselling, life skills training and mentorship," Sharrab said.
“Two of our scholarship students took part in a Global Internship Programme this summer with Migrate MENA, and we are forging partnerships with other companies to facilitate these types of experiences and employment upon graduation,” Rawan Risheq, Hopes for Women’s Community Relations Liaison, added.
Risheq said she believes that education enables women to take charge of their own lives and that she was motivated to participate in this initiative by her own experience of how getting a good education changed her life.
“I was fortunate enough as a Palestinian woman to be able to obtain higher education and I feel obligated to help other women in reaching that same sense of achievement,” she added.
Mai Khraisha, one of the organisation’s volunteers, highlighted the importance of education for women in realising their potential.
"It is sad to see that some women are not thinking of education as a first priority. They think that eventually they will get married and raise kids at home," the 25-year-old told The Jordan Times.
"The idea that women are inferior to men is embedded in our culture and we must work together to change it," added Khraisha, who studied business management at the German-Jordanian University.
Some families in the Gaza Camp do not allow their daughters to go to university or work because they do not want them to mix with men, said Safiah Abu-Shinin, a volunteer in the Gaza Camp Community Development Centre.
"We are trying to raise awareness about the importance of education and volunteer work among girls in the camp. These events and programmes are really helpful," the 39-year-old camp resident said.
Sharrab pointed out that a lot of work needs to be done to improve women's education and employability both locally and regionally.
"We aim to connect with different NGOs, academic institutions, individuals and corporations to promote our mission and objectives in enhancing higher education and self-sustainability for underprivileged refugee, displaced and non-status women," she said.
"Our efforts aim not only to provide support to underprivileged women, but also to raise awareness and create a shift in thought when looking at women and higher education.”