East Wahdat Upgrade/Social Status of Women: Public facilities and institutions

As mentioned in the previous blog post, Amman is totally an Islamic World, no matter whether it is for the original ‘Jordanian-Jordanians’ or the’ Jordanian-Palestinian’ refugees. Therefore, the building of living space, which later became the urban area, has inherited the traditional customs and believes that a living space should be private, modest and hospitable, which follows the teachings of Quran and Hadiths. In view of privacy, one could notice that it is actually divided into four layers: the privacy between neighbours’ dwellings, privacy between males and females, privacy between family members and individual privacy. (Othman, Aird and Buys 2014). It is obvious that, according to the traditional Islamic thoughts, males and females should be well-separated, and that the privacy of females is of paramount importance. Apart from having small windows in a higher position on the houses façade so as to protect the women inside from being seen by the males neighbours, the interior space is also separated into men’s and women’s quarter. Women are also not allowed to have any kind of interaction with stranger men. The women in the Islamic World are overly protected and slowly leads to a phenomenon of subjection to men, not being said they are not equal before God.

In the original upgrading site of East Wahdat, due to the inherit culture and the low education level, especially for the women, many of the labor forces are underemployed. For instance, there were only 22% of women in the whole upgrading area who works for a living. However, almost 11% of households were headed by women and a majority of 77% of them were widows. Also, 37% of them earned less than JD 37 per month, which was around USD 100 at that time. They were classified as ‘hardship cases’ by the Urban Development Department (UDD). Moreover, 88% of female household heads are illiterate, compared to only 22% of that of males (Hasan 1989). The low-income level, the high illiteracy rate, together with the inherit culture has a profound impact on the social status of women, which made them more difficult to obtain a higher status as compared to men.

In view of this issue, the East Wahdat Upgrading Plan has actually placed emphasis on increasing the social status of women, at the same time not infringing their inherit culture of separation between males and females. As above mentioned, most of the women in the upgrading area was underemployed, therefore, one of the aims of the programme was to increase female participation in the labour force, so as to increase their income level and thus their social status. In the upgrading plan of East Wahdat, a women’s center was intentionally placed at the Southeast corner of the site, so as to provide tailored vocational training to the women, and to provide a place for them to have social gatherings. The vocational training concentrated on dressmaking and child care, in which a demand existed. It was also provisioned that two-third of the trainees would be females (World Bank 1980). Moreover, a girl school was also set up so as to provide education for the future generations, and to well-equipped them for integrating into the society. On the other hand, one should take note that the setting up of female communal facilities was in-line with the inherit culture of the Islamic World, where males and females are to be separated. The women’s center is built specially for women, where women from different families could interact with each other. Not only does this increases the exposure of women to the social community, it also increases the social status of the women eventually.

women

Fig.1 Proposed Women’s Center

Reference:

Hasan, Arif. 1989. Technical Review Summary 1989: East Whadat Upgrading Program, Aga Khan Architecture Award. The Aga Khan Award for Archtitecture.

Othman, Z., R. Aird, and L. Buys. 2014. “Privacy, Modesty, Hospitality, and the Design of Muslim Homes: A literature review.” ScienceDirect 12-23.

World Bank, Jordan Urban Renewal Project Report, 1980

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