In Jordan, the findings of a rapid gender assessment (RGA) on the gendered impacts of COVID-19 fed into an addendum to the 2020 National Strategy on Women in Jordan and efforts to align it with the Government’s Executive Programme for 2021–2024. Other assessments on refugee women and violence against women have also shifted UN Women’s programmatic responses towards targeted cash assistance and online service-delivery.
The UN Women Jordan Country Office has conducted three of its own RGAs. The first, a vulnerability assessment among 850 respondents, was done in April with results published in May 2020. The second RGA, conducted in May 2020 in partnership with Jordan’s Economic and Social Council and funded under the Women Count programme, reached 1,300 respondents by telephone and was launched at a national event in January 2021. In May 2021, Jordan also conducted a vulnerability assessment as a follow-up.
The April 2020 assessment found that 62% of already vulnerable women, including Syrian refugees, indicated feeling at increased risk of physical or psychological violence as a result of the pandemic.
“We reprogrammed our work around that study, to be more responsive to the challenges of COVID-19,” says Diya Nanda, Programme Management Specialist for UN Women Jordan. “We used it widely in our own programme reporting and we used the data to justify our revised approach.”
Nanda says results were widely disseminated and referenced or discussed in key policymaking fora, such as the Inter-ministerial Committee for Women, the Humanitarian Development Partners Forum and others. They were also used to inform UN Women’s own COVID-19 emergency response, in terms of targeting cash assistance, providing support for children’s online learning, as well as providing remote gender-based violence services and support, including via WhatsApp.
According to Bushra Abu Shahout, Political Participation and Leadership Specialist for UN Women Jordan, the vulnerability assessment also prompted the Jordan Office to change its approach for its second-round survey, to engage more men and to ensure that it was more inclusive of people with disabilities. Specifically, the office applied a sample of women beneficiaries, selected by age, location, nationality and disability (using Washington Group questions on functioning to define disability) then interviewed their spouse or another male household member for comparative data.
Shahout adds that the Ministry of Social Development and the National Council for Family Affairs have both noted the data on violence against women, from the vulnerability assessment, national and regional RGA, and have taken them seriously.
Jordan’s second RGA focused on the gendered impacts of the pandemic on the general population. The national survey was conducted in May 2020 by the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan, with support from UN Women, and at the request of the Economic and Social Council, which advises the Government on policy matters.
From an economic perspective, it showed that women working in low-wage, informal, or temporary and short-term sectors, such as seasonal jobs or small-scale businesses, were disproportionately affected by the pandemic, with material and psychological impacts.
According to Salma Nims, Secretary General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women (JNCW), who attended the online launch, there was a lot of interest and discussion around the data on the impacts on women in the workforce.
“There was important data that can be used on many fronts. If you read through it, there is a lot to chew on,” she says, while noting that some of the interlinkages could have been stronger. “There are still silos and even where there were references to intersectionalities, like if you’re poor or have a disability, it wasn’t that integrated. But I think in terms of data there was a lot to use. I think it was an important document that provided data at the time that we could refer to, use and build on for conclusions and for our own arguments.”
Nims notes the National Strategy for Women in Jordan, which was launched on 8 March, just before the pandemic. To update it in light of COVID-19 impacts, the JNCW worked with UN Women to develop an Addendum in June and July of 2020, which was later published as part of the National Strategy. Although the final report for the second RGA was not yet ready, Nims says some raw data were used, including on the impacts on women versus men of: decreased mobility, job-related lockdown implications, reduced access to essential health-care services, technology and COVID-19 information, psychological well-being, increased household and care responsibilities, the compounding demands of working remotely, higher reports of gender-based violence, and lack of representation in COVID-19 responses.
The addendum also cites substantial data from the first RGA, including how many surveyed vulnerable women had lost their jobs (99%), did not have enough money to buy food (52%), feared physical or psychological violence (62%), and feared an unplanned pregnancy (71%) given reduced access to contraceptives and reduced decision-making power.
The JNCW has since also been working with UN Women to align the Government’s Executive Programme for 2021–2024 [which will be published later this year] with the National Strategy for Women. “I think this is where we will see the RGA results used explicitly,” says Nims.
Nims adds that UN Women is one of the most trusted sources of data for the JNCW and for other governmental decision-makers. “When it’s an international document, it really has impact … that’s why rapid assessments with analysis are so important, with recommendations and looking at the structural reasons behind them that will really impact change.”
About the author: Jen Ross is a freelance writer and editor with more than 10 years of UN experience, including with UN-ECLAC, OHCHR and UN Women.