MEDA and Global Affairs Canada developed the Jordan Valley Links (JVL) project, which aims to improve the entrepreneurial and business acumen of women and youth and reduce both market and socio-cultural barriers to their entry for enterprise development. Over a five years (2016-2021) period, the project focuses on three value chains: food processing, community-based tourism, and clean technology.
MEDA is an international economic development organization whose mission is to create business solutions to poverty. The NGO, in partnership with the Government of Canada, provides women and youth with the capacity building and incentives required to develop their businesses. The JVL project supports women and youth producers on three different levels, by providing:
- Capacity building through training and mentorship
- Market linkages through partnerships and food fairs
- Social engagement through awareness campaigns for the community
The food processing training, held by Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development (JOHUD) aims to provide women and youth living in the Jordan valley with the required knowledge and skills to operate environmentally sustainable and gender equitable businesses, to increase their access to finance, and to gain the community’s support.
Intisar, a new food entrepreneur selling pickles in Balqa governorate is among the more than 2,000 women and youth in Balqa who have registered and benefited from the sessions facilitated by MEDA JVL. Intisar is hoping to expand her business further and one day open a factory for pickling. Her story is enlightening:
Intisar's first challenge was being able to find people who would be willing to buy her jars of pickles; which is the main issue women and youth face when entering the food processing sector in Jordan.
After registering as a home-based business, which the Government of Jordan has recently allowed, the 39-year-old mother of four used JOD 2 – about USD 3 – to buy cucumbers and pickle them to test what she learned during the training. “I now know how to pasteurize the pickles and realized that using iodine free salt is better for pickling”, she says. She then sold her batch and made six dinars the first time. Currently, she sells pickle jars worth JOD 120 – some USD 170 – in one week.
MEDA studied the situation of women in the Jordan valley and have shown that women’s level of economic participation is linked to the level of support received from their families, especially their male family members.
The NGO has delivered gender awareness sessions targeting the women beneficiaries and the male members of their families. Community dialogues have been also conducted to target the community members in large, with the aim of building awareness on how men could support women to be economically active. Different kind of speakers were invited to attend the events, such as religious leaders, community activists, and governmental officials.
The project supports women and youth not only by providing specific training on business management and food hygiene and packaging, but also by linking them to potential buyers. Linkages has been established with one of the biggest pickles distributors in Jordan. Beneficiaries are also encouraged to participate in food fairs, so they are directly linked to customers.
The Jordan Valley Links project is making a significant difference in the access to market, business development services, and finance for women and youth entrepreneurs. Before starting this project, these services were poor and limited due to societal and cultural perceptions towards women's and youth's work and their role in entrepreneurship.
Thanks to this project, the Jordan Valley's community started to understand that the presence of women and youth in business is crucial to Jordan's economic growth.