What can one empowered woman in a rural community accomplish if she's motivated enough?
Well, just ask Majida, whose two daughters wanted to enter the science stream at their local school in the small town of Khaldia, in Jordan's northern Mafraq governorate.
The girls' school didn't offer the science stream because "there wasn't enough interest." The issue was weighing on Majida's mind, who wanted her daughters to advance in science and education, so that no matter what happened, they would be strong.
At first, Majida didn't know where to start. "I had never had the courage to approach officials or authority figures," she says. "I was afraid of saying the wrong thing. I lacked confidence, especially since I had never had the chance to complete my own education."
This changed after Majida attended a series of leadership and decision-making training sessions provided by the Al-Khaldia Society for Social Development as part of a project funded by CIDA's Gender and Social Fund and known as "Enhancing women's institutional and personal leadership skills."
With the help and mentorship of the program training, and the support of her fellow women trainees, including the women's pressure group formed through the project, Majida was able to approach the problem in an organized and basic way before heading to the people in charge.
She started by collecting the names of girls at the school who also wanted to study in the scientific stream and encouraged support in the local community. "That way, I could go to the school principal and show him the level of demand for this," she says.
"The principal was very surprised to see all the work I had done," she continues. Even after getting approval for a science stream, however, there remained the physical problem of a classroom. The school barely had enough room for the existing classes; where was a new class going to be held?
Luckily, Majida was again up to the task. By researching and asking, she found a suitable house to rent next to the school. Working with local and school officials and other parents, she was able to open a science stream at the newly identified premises within six months.
"I hope my daughters are able to attend university and continue their education," says Majida. She is proud of her achievement. "The program really taught us how to start looking at issues that affect us and do something about them. We don't feel helpless anymore."
Majida is now an active member of the local women's pressure group. The group has succeeded in establishing strong relations with community leaders and government officials, including the governor. The women have also been able to expedite approvals for the renovation of the health clinic and to lobby for expanding its services. At the same time, they are working for a youth centre and are quickly becoming a focal point for mobilizing change in their community.
Equality between women and men is a crosscutting theme throughout Canada's development cooperation programming and is systematically and explicitly incorporated in all CIDA programming. Women's equal participation in decision making, full realization of their human rights, and equal access to and control over the resources and benefits of development are openly and actively supported and encouraged in all of CIDA's activities.