In the tranquil village of Al Dieseh, nine young Bedouin women unleash their creative skills and becoming empowered while earning an income at the same time. They are members of Al Dieseh Cooperative who produce ceramics to sell to locals and tourists who come to visit the famous desert landscape of Jordan’s Wadi Rum protected area.
The Jordan Tourism Development Project, also known as Siyaha, works with the Jordanian government, local communities, nongovernmental organization, and tourism-related groups such as the cooperative, to develop a dynamic and competitive tourism industry. In Al Dieseh, Siyaha identified ceramics production as a potentially lucrative handicrafts product that would also empower women through new employment opportunities within their community. With support from the Ministry of Planning and other institutions, a ceramics workshop was built in 2006 and training was developed to support the workers.
From June until December 2007, a Siyaha grant will have funded operations at the workshop. In addition, the project will have provided more technical and financial support to develop new products, conduct training, purchase new equipment, and support the women’s salaries. The funding also will have paid for renovations at the workshop, including construction of a display room to showcase and sell ceramics merchandise.
“The new workshop has created employment opportunities for us that we didn’t have before,” says Muna Abdullah Al Zawayda, the workshop supervisor and one of the craftswomen. For Muna, this job gave her the chance to build and use new skills, but also to work and earn an income — something new to most Bedouin women.
“45 percent of our members are women,” said Abdel Aziz Zawayda, manager of Al Dieseh Cooperative. “We worked with Siyaha with the aim of getting women out of the home to support them in playing a bigger role within the community. It was difficult to do this at first,” he added, “but once young girls in the area saw others working, they were encouraged.”
Al Dieseh Cooperative employs the largest number of women in Wadi Rum. For Muna, the job has opened up a new world, and she hopes that it will do the same for others, including her younger sister. “When my sister finishes her studies, I will encourage her to take up crafts too.”