In Jordan, the position of adolescents is characterised by poor participation in social and public life. At home, open discussions on matters related to life and society between adolescents and parents, as equal partners are rare. Also decisions concerning their education, employment opportunities – and for girls even marriage – are often taken by family members without consulting adolescents themselves.
Among young people, especially young women, unemployment is high. Families and society in large still restrict girls. Girls have much less access than boys to public places such as markets, youth facilities and Internet cafés. There is a need to develop programs for adolescents to improve their creativity, life skills and lifestyles.
To accurately gauge the situation of adolescents, UNICEF led a nationwide Youth Survey in 2001 that indicated the limited importance parents attach to adolescents’ participation in financial and family discussions. Adolescents believe that they need to participate more in decision-making processes concerning their life and that of their family. According to the survey, 86.7% of adolescent boys and 89.6% of adolescent girls want more participation in family decisions. The survey also confirmed the widespread existence of intergenerational gap and gender discrimination.
UNICEF’s pilot project Promoting Life Opportunities for Adolescents in Jordan with a focus on girls, was launched to create public interest and a commitment to improve the situation of adolescents, enhance the communication with their parents, and promote participation and equal opportunities for all adolescents in Jordanian society.
UNICEF supported the Ministry of Education to promote basic life skills in 200 schools, including some in refugee camps. Over 15,000 adolescent girls and boys were trained on basic life skills; and have improved their level of initiatives and participation in public life. The schools offer a total 20-hour interactive session with different topics between parents and youth to facilitate effective communication. UNICEF worked with the Higher Council for Youth through 100 youth facilitators in 64 youth centres to support participatory and gender-sensitive approaches.
The Promoting Life Opportunities for Adolescents project reached out to adolescents, parents and adolescents' direct environment, i.e. youth workers, program designers, teachers and community workers. In so doing, the project has not only empowered adolescents with skills and educated parents with better understanding, but also helps build the capacity of those in the government and NGOs who work with young people. In the words of 17-year-old Arij Qadri, “When I got involved in the project, I started thinking of ways to improve myself, my peers and family… I hope to gain a leadership position working with youth and children.”
In 2003, UNICEF-Jordan has initiated activities for adolescents to promote the intergenerational dialogue. Twenty Adolescents produced an interactive drama with 4 basic messages for parents. The messages focused on the need for parents to listen and talk to their children, support them studying rather than putting pressure on them, trust their daughters and limit brothers' manipulation of sisters.
The drama was presented in 100 locations all over Jordan with the participation of more than 5000 parents. They thought of the drama as an opportunity to rethink their relation to their adolescent sons and daughters. This reflection led to a better understanding from parents’ side. The drama was video taped and shown during a training workshop of parenting for community workers. The video tapes have been distributed to NGOs and are being used as a discussion tool when holding parenting sessions.
The Jordan example is one of the best practices of the global pilot initiative “Meeting the Development and Participation Rights of Adolescent Girls” funded by the UN Foundation. UNICEF’s work for adolescents in Jordan demonstrated the effectiveness of bringing families and adolescents together in creating the basic foundation and supportive environment for adolescents’ participation and development.