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Courses on offer at community centre empower Palestinian women in Jordan

UNICEF Image: Jordan, community development
© UNICEF Jordan/2007/Noorani
Holding her toddler, Un Tamer meets with a volunteer at the UNICEF-supported Community Centre for Social Development in the Shallah district of Aqaba.

By Hind-Lara Mango

AQABA, Jordan, 20 August 2007 – Um Tamer, 32, lives in the Shallah district of Aqaba, which is home to some 6,000 Palestinian refugees. A mother of six, she used to suffer from severe depression. That began to change four years ago, when volunteers from the Community Centre for Social Development came knocking at her door.

“The volunteers came to our homes one by one and asked us if we wished to go to the centre or to gather ourselves in one house for information sessions,” says Ms. Tamer.

She agreed to take the courses and feels that her life has since changed for the better. Among the classes she has found most useful are those dealing with parenting skills, the Personal Status Law (which covers family matters such as marriage, divorce and custody of children) and income-generating projects.

The courses also make parents aware of the harm that could come to their teenage children: drug abuse, domestic violence, dropping out of school and smoking, to name just a few. Adolescents are especially at risk in Shallah, which suffers from high rates of poverty and unemployment as well as many environmental, social and health problems stemming from overcrowding.

Stages of child development

UNICEF Jordan has been supporting the Community Centre for Social Development for over five years. As part of a community development project, the centre focuses on the needs of underprivileged women and children.

UNICEF Image: Jordan, refugees
© UNICEF Jordan/2007/Noorani
Home to 6,000 Palestinian refugees, Shallah suffers from high rates of poverty and unemployment, as well as social and health problems stemming from overcrowding.

“Um Tamer is very energetic now. She has come out of her depression and  convinced her husband that these courses are important,” says Hanan Dghaimat, a volunteer at the centre.

“I now take note of when my children cry. I look for the reason and do not ignore fever,” Ms. Tamer says, adjusting her headscarf with one hand and holding her toddler with the other. One of the many things she has found helpful, she explains, is knowing now what to expect at each stage of her children’s development.

Newly acquired knowledge

Ms. Tamer adds that her husband Abu – a driver in the tourism sector whose work demands that he be away for long hours and sometimes days – has participated in the courses as well. “He knows that he has to concentrate not only on his job, but also to ask about the kids, talk to them, ask them where they are going and who their friends are,” she says.

Meanwhile, Ms. Tamer’s home has become a weekly meeting place for women in the neighbourhood who speak openly of issues that concern them, guided by the new knowledge they acquired from the information sessions at the centre.

Ms. Tamer says she has one mission in life: to educate her children and see them through university. She has just taken a loan and started a home-based business to make that dream come true.



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