Women’s Issues? What’s the Big Deal?

October 19, 2011

All is well in Jordan.

At the second night’s screening with the Royal Film Commission of Jordan in Amman. Tonight’s discussion was exceptional. We screened a tailored combination of films from The Woman Warrior and The Slave programs. On our panel were Layla Hamarneh the head of Arab Women Organization of Jordan, Abeer Najjar the head of the Jordan Media Institute and professor of journalism at American University Sharjah, as well as Dalia Odeh WVN filmmaker of “Is This Honor?”

There were many strong comments and questions from the audience in response to Dalia’s film on honor killings in Jordan. Note that Jordan is among the top 5 countries associated with high numbers of honor killings each year according to the United Nations. Among the barrage of questions were: “Why are you making such a big deal out of this issue?” “Why aren’t you presenting solutions?” and “Did you feel safe interviewing people on the streets of Amman regarding this issue?” Dalia with great composure responded to the questions with a firm baseline point that issues of honor should be between a girl/woman and her family and not by society.

As we found happening consistently in our screenings, the issue of religion came up. One man went on a long monologue about how religion, whichever religion a person adheres to, should regulate people’s behavior and determine the consequences of such behaviors. Another man in the back of the audience had made a hot sheet of criticisms about our films. He accused us of being anti-Islam, for portraying all women as beggars while portraying other women in unrealistic roles such as taxi drivers and that ultimately we were exaggerating the problems of women’s issues.

Fortunately, Abeer and Layla had compelling responses to these reactions citing laws and religious customs in Jordan. Layla pointed out that if there were no problems then three new laws on women’s rights would not have been passed by the Jordanian parliament in the last year. A man in the audience told his story about how his family is more prosperous overall by having his wife in the workforce. This particular man married in Jordan and immigrated to America for a short time before returning to Jordan. He told the audience that his wife would drive the kids to school, take care of the kids, bring home a second income and tend to the house. All of her efforts helped him tremendously and he appreciated that because he worked a difficult job ten hours a day and overnight at times. “Women need this freedom simply because it helps with everyday life, having a family, a home and food on the table. The responsibility is shared,” he told us.

Suzie Abdou
Director of Global Programs

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