Dutch delegates in Jordan celebrate 3,000 new jobs created for youth, refugees and women
After a five year partnership, SPARK and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs have celebrated the closure of two important employment boosting programmes that created 3,000 jobs for youth, refugees and women in Jordan.
Last week, SPARK celebrated the closing ceremony of the programmes – Improving Employment Opportunities and Jobs and Perspectives – which were financed by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The event was held under the patronage of Mr. Mark Haselaer, Deputy Head of Mission and Head of Development Cooperation at the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Jordan. Many representatives from both the public and private sectors joined to share in the achievement of creating 3,000 new jobs in Jordan for Syrian, Palestinian and Jordanian youth.
“Participants were equipped with tools and mentorship in order to prepare them to establish or expand their businesses”
Through these programmes, and with the support of the Dutch government, SPARK is accelerating business development in Jordan and supporting the private sector to grow and create new jobs.
Mr. Haselaer said in his speech: “Jordan has received millions of refugees from the region. Therefore, our government has decided to support Jordan with 200 million Euros in grants expiring by the end of the year. The programmes we have funded helped in private sector development and economic prospects…With the help of these SPARK’s projects, participants were equipped with tools and mentorship in order to prepare them to establish or expand their businesses.”
The two programmes have directly supported the establishment of 650 new businesses and helped grow 1,065 existing businesses with over 3,000 direct and indirect jobs created. Around 90% of the participants were mostly women and youth aged between 18-35 years old.
“Our entrepreneurship curriculum will be also utilised by Jordanian universities to encourage more young females to take advantage of entrepreneurship opportunities in Jordan. Furthermore, to ensure empowerment and sustainability of these projects’ outcomes, we offered further technical support to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Jordan and its members,” said Mr. Haselaer.
Panel 1: Solutions to Work
The ceremony included two panel discussions. The first featured Mr. Ehab Kahwati, Founder of Martha EDU. “Martha EDU is a social enterprise that focuses on producing innovative, educational technologies for children with hearing disabilities,” said Mr. Kahwati. “When we first started, we faced countless obstacles…One of the major obstacles that we faced was the lack of guidance and mentorship. Joining SPARK’s programme has enabled us to obtain valuable resources. We were provided with highly qualified trainers and mentors who helped us expand our services.”
Mr. Raed Madanat, Project Director at the Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship said: “Accessing the market, finance and talent is one of the biggest challenges that these enterprises face. Our role as governmental institutions, INGOs and private sector is to supply these businesses with highly skilled talents.” He also emphasised the importance of inter-agency collaboration.
Ms. Amanda Kelleher, Director of International Education at Luminus Education, the largest provider of TVET in Jordan, said: “Our collaboration with SPARK during the programme was a good success. It allowed participants to gain an excellent level of education that eventually led them to land better job opportunities.”
Joining the other panelists was Ms. Noor Jouma’a, a Syrian woman who graduated from a BA in Accounting with a scholarship from SPARK. “After I lost everything because of the war, the Dutch Embassy-funded programme has enabled me to get back on my feet, and pursue my degree in Accounting and Financial Management at LTUC. I also managed to land a job shortly afterwards.”
Panel 2: Women’s Entrepreneurship: Opportunities and Challenges
The second panel discussion featured several prominent women in business, including Mrs. Neda’a Kharoub, co-founder of Trip to Innovation, an NGO platform that builds innovation culture and social entrepreneurship among Jordanian youth, Mrs. Rania B. Kudsi, founder of Global HCI, Ms. Renad Algoroani, founder of Circle of Hope, and Mrs. Thana’a Khasawneh, Executive Director of the Jordanian Business and Professional Women Association.
The panelists discussed women’s economic empowerment and the challenges these entrepreneurs face. Mrs. Khasawneh said: “One of the biggest challenges we are battling is the binding social and cultural norms. We should also support innovative and creative business ideas that think outside the box rather than the known paradigm of projects.”
Mrs. Kudsi agreed: “As a mother and a businesswoman, it was really hard for me to expand my business. Women do face gender discrimination. Society often undermines and undervalues our contributions to the economy. Although it was a rewarding experience, I found it challenging to find mentorship.”
Mrs Khasawneh also talked about legislative obstacles and the inability to access finance. “We found out that many female-owned businesses lack proper processing and strategic planning needed to reach their goals. Therefore, they need tailored plans. We need to raise their financial awareness level through proper collaborations.”
She also added: “The recent pandemic has expanded our horizons. Remote-work has become more accessible which positively affects women entrepreneurship.”
Although a recent study showed that women’s economic participation in Jordan was among the lowest in the world, Mrs. Kudsi was optimistic. “I think we can improve our economic opportunities if education received a greater emphasis. The recent pandemic has expanded our horizons. Remote work has become more accessible which positively affects women entrepreneurship.”
Ms. Algoroani, whose business was supported by SPARK, said: “Living in a conservative family and gender discrimination are two of the major challenges that any young female business owner will probably face. I strongly believe that in changing the public perspective – especially of parents towards young females – entrepreneurship will absolutely make a huge difference.” Ms. Algoroani thanked SPARK and TTI trainers for their efforts in helping her establish her project.
SPARK is proud to have partnered with the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs for over 20 years on many global projects supporting youth. Five years of collaboration in Jordan with the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands has led to significant improvements in the lives of refugees, women and other vulnerable youth. Job creation and economic stability in fragile and conflict-affected regions remains our core mission and we look forward to future, fruitful collaborations with the Dutch government on this.
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