The European Union (EU) has been a longstanding partner to UN Women, promoting joint advocacy efforts at the global, regional, and local level. Since 2018, the UN Women Country Office in Jordan has worked under the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis to strengthen Syrian refugee and vulnerable Jordanian women and girl’s resilience and empowerment by addressing systematic barriers in terms of economic participation and protection. The EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian crisis, also known by the Arabic term “Madad” which translates to ‘sustaining’ or ‘reinforcing’ in English, places the EU at the forefront of the international response to the Syrian crisis: it contributes to address the critical needs of 5.6 million Syrian refugees, their host communities and 6.7 million persons displaced in their own country (internally displaced people, IDPs). The EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis has proven its added value beyond economies of scale and the pooling of funds. To date, the Trust Fund has mobilised over €1.9 billion, including voluntary contributions from 22 EU Member States and Turkey.
The conflict in Syria is in its eighth year, with devastating consequences. Inside Syria over 13.1 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. Outside, 5.6 million registered refugees remain displaced from their homes across Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Of these, women and girls constitute 47.5 percent. While the Syrian refugee population is coping with the loss of lives, extreme poverty and unprecedented displacement, the crisis has also adversely impacted the development gains in the sub-region, where neighbouring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey struggle to extend their social service structures to their expanding populations. Compounding this, instability in Iraq continues to challenge the socio-economic situation of the country.
Women and girls across the Arab States region continue to bear a disproportionate toll; not due to innate vulnerabilities, but due to historical and structural marginalization stemming from gender-based discrimination. This discrimination limits their access to employment and to public space and increases isolation and the risk of gender-based violence – both in Syria and outside. It also manifests itself through a growing number of female-headed households, who are one of the groups most vulnerable to food insecurity across the region.
Since 2015, the international community has increasingly shifted towards resilience-focused interventions, articulated through the Regional Refugee and Response Plans (3RP). Within the overall response to the crisis, the space for women’s proactive and meaningful participation has not been utilized to adequate scope and scale. This is despite the fact that the achievement of women’s empowerment and gender equality has the power to bolster recovery and peace. For example, in Jordan, the UN estimates that if employment occupations were reshuffled between women and men to ensure more equal distribution, the gross domestic product would increase by 5%, the equivalent of almost USD 2 billion per year. Moreover, data shows that women’s participation in peace-making makes peace more likely to be reached, and 35% more likely to hold for at least 15 years.
Between 2018 and 2020, the EU Madad Fund supported the two-year regional initiative, “Strengthening the Resilience of Syrian Women and Girls and Host Communities in Iraq, Jordan, and Turkey.” The objective of the initiative was to strengthen the resilience of women affected by the Syria crisis. It worked through a multi-dimensional strategy that enabled women’s resilience and empowerment through addressing issues of economic vulnerability and violence. This was done by pairing increased access to recovery and livelihood opportunities, with comprehensive protection services and support to national justice structures to promote accountability for violence against women. The programme also worked to engage men as partners, champions, and advocates for women’s increased empowerment, including their engagement in the labour market. Results from the evaluation of the programme indicated that, the Oasis program's approach and collaboration with national partners proved relevant to the national response plan, particularly in addressing livelihoods, food security, and social protection goals. UN Women's female-centered approach created an enabling environment for refugee women's labor market participation, contributing to their economic empowerment and self-reliance within families. Specifically impactful for Syrian refugee women in camp settings, the programme facilitated labor market engagement through skills training and cash-for-work opportunities, encouraging sustained economic activity post-rotation. The strategic use of cash-for-work incentives for women's engagement in awareness raising and education demonstrated the program's effectiveness in empowering women and promoting awareness about SGBV prevention and gender equality. Additionally, UN Women successfully involved national government stakeholders in advancing gender issues, promoting women's empowerment, and supporting gender equality. For more information on the two-year initiative, please visit the website of the UN Women Regional Office for the Arab States.
Following on the successful implementation of the two-year regional initiative, the second phase of EU the Madad Fund in Jordan now supports humanitarian and development action through the programme: “Resilience and Empowerment of Vulnerable Women: The Future of Jordan’s Growth and Stability” from 2021 to 2023. Through this programme, UN Women has been able to expand the Oasis model to contribute to Jordan’s stability, inclusive economic growth, and sustainable development by supporting women to enter, and more importantly, remain in the labour force.
Impact and Progress
From 2021 to 2023, “Resilience and Empowerment of Vulnerable Women: The Future of Jordan’s Growth and Stability” programme has made significant strides in empowering women and children in Jordan. During this period, the program expanded to 22 centers, significantly empowered over 30,000 individuals, primarily Syrian refugees and vulnerable Jordanian women and girls, including those with disabilities.
The program focused on transitioning from short-term to long-term economic empowerment, with many women receiving job training and entrepreneurial skills to engage in the labor market and start their own businesses. This period also saw enhanced engagement with the private sector, leading to increased commitment to the Women’s Empowerment Principles, thereby promoting women’s access, retention, and advancement in the workforce.
Aligning with Jordan's national strategies like the National Social Protection Strategy and the National Strategy for Women, the Oasis Model has been pivotal in advancing gender-responsive policies and women’s economic empowerment in the region. These efforts underscore the program's vital role in integrating gender equality into national and humanitarian responses in Jordan.
The “Resilience and Empowerment of Vulnerable Women: The Future of Jordan’s Growth and Stability” programme embodies strategic partnership, collaborating with both governmental and non-governmental entities. Significant governmental collaborations include the Ministry of Social Development, the Ministry for Planning and International Cooperation, the Ministry of Labor and Industry, alongside various governorates, and local authorities. Key United Nations partners in this endeavor are United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the International Labor Organization (ILO). Additionally, UN Women engages with local NGOs such as the Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development – ARDD and Education for Employment – EFE Jordan, as well as with the private sector. This project leverages existing strong collaborations, focusing on national ownership and long-term sustainability.
The "Resilience and Empowerment of Vulnerable Women: The Future of Jordan’s Growth and Stability" programme by UN Women exemplifies sustainable development through its robust strategic partnerships. This approach aligns with Jordan's national strategies, ensuring that local stakeholders lead the way for lasting progress. The programmes durability is reinforced by integrating empowerment initiatives into local governance and societal norms, setting the stage for continuous advancement and ownership beyond the immediate lifespan of the project. Additionally, engaging the private sector plays a crucial role, bringing in diverse expertise and resources, and fostering innovative solutions that contribute to the programmes sustainability and wider societal impact.
European Union Trust Fund ‘Madad’
The European Union's response to the Syrian crisis through the EU Trust Fund ‘Madad’, established in December 2014, has been pivotal in addressing the needs of over 5.6 million Syrian refugees and their host communities. The majority of these refugees residing in countries neighboring Syria, including Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, the EU fund has played a key role in supporting these nations amidst challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic. The EUTF Madad aligns with the objectives set out in the Brussels Conferences, focusing on not just the immediate survival of refugees but also their longer-term resilience and the alleviation of pressures on host countries. As a nexus between humanitarian relief and developmental aid, the fund emphasizes both early recovery and sustainable solutions. Governance of the fund involves a Trust Fund Board for strategic oversight and an Operational Board for fund allocation, ensuring that projects are effectively selected and managed to meet the critical needs of affected communities
Jordan's programs under the EUTF Madad focus on supporting Syrian refugees and their host communities, addressing critical needs in areas such as education, health, and livelihoods, while also aiming to strengthen social cohesion and economic resilience within the country. These efforts are integral to Jordan's broader strategy to manage the impact of the Syrian crisis on its own socio-economic landscape.
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