The story of Sondas Bashiri
Each day, Sondas Bashiri looks forward to attending the Vocational Training Corporation (VTC) in her hometown of Irbid, Jordan. Here, she is enrolled in the Medical Office Assistant (MOA) program. Upon graduating from the program, she wants to work in medical administration.
Prior to enrolling in this program, Sondas worked as a school teacher. Her family had previously encouraged her to pursue teaching, which in Jordan, is considered a socially acceptable career for a woman. After getting married and having a child however, she decided to pursue a career path that she was passionate about. Wanting to improve the customer service she saw in hospitals after experiencing impoliteness from receptionists, the MOA program appealed to her.
Finding appropriate childcare: a barrier to enter the workforce
Despite her interest in the MOA program, Sondas was unsure at first whether she would be able to enroll in the program, since attending school while caring for a young child can be challenging. Additionally, there is a low level of trust regarding many existing daycares. With a lack of competent caregivers, and the recurrence of caregiver violence and negligence, parents are often reluctant to leave their children in daycares.
Her only options for childcare were overcrowded and expensive private daycares, or leaving her 16-month old son Kareem with her elderly grandmother. “I thought that I could not take this program, because I needed to find a good place for my son,” Sondas explained.
Without access to adequate child care facilities, it is very difficult for many mothers to even consider pursuing educational or economic opportunities. Many women have had to put their educational or career pursuits on hold, in order to care for their children.
The importance of quality childcare
Fortunately for Sondas, she learned that a daycare had recently opened at the vocational training centre. She was excited about it and highly impressed with the facility: it was clean, secure, comfortable, and it had attentive caregivers. It was the perfect solution – Kareem could come with her to the training centre and stay in the daycare while she attended classes. This facility is a pilot within WUSC’s broader strategy of addressing the barriers that prevent many women from entering the workforce in Jordan.
For women with children to care for, having a daycare that is safe, affordable, and accessible is key. Quality daycares enable children to develop new skills and engage with their peers, enhancing their personal development. The caregivers are trained in Early Childhood Development (ECD), meaning that they are qualified to take care of young children and help them grow.
In Sondas’ experience, having access to a daycare at the training centre has been a key factor in enabling her to pursue her career goals. Before she enters the centre, Sondas drops Kareem in the care of qualified caregivers. “I check on him all the time, and he is playing and discovering new things…he plays games that build his ability and capacity,” she says.
The road ahead: increasing opportunities for rewarding work
Only 14% of women in Jordan are currently working or looking for work – a particularly low percentage for a country where women are among the most highly educated in the region. Many factors hinder women’s access to economic opportunities, including social norms around what is considered an appropriate career for women, and the division of childcare and domestic responsibilities. Quality childcare is one of many solutions that is needed to break barriers and enable women to pursue their desired career paths.
With such an initiative of establishing a high-quality childcare facility in a training centre, Sondas, a 24-year old mother, is now able to pursue her passion while feeling comfortable that her child is safe, happy and close in proximity.
Building on the success of facilities like this training centre, WUSC aims to demonstrate that vocational training centres, and other private sector institutions, can benefit from providing child care for employees. WUSC will continue to support such training centres and institutions in Jordan to adopt a similar model, so that more women have the resources they need to access education and employment opportunities to support themselves and their families.
The Women’s Economic Linkages and Employment Development (WE LEAD) Project (2017-2021), funded by Global Affairs Canada, is run in consortium with World University Service of Canada (WUSC) and the Canadian International Consulting Company (CLIC). This project is in partnership with the Government of Jordan, Jordanian organizations, and private sector institutions, seeks to increase the number of Jordanian women and female youth in the workforce through two training programs: Medical Office Assistance (MOA) and Healthcare Support Worker (HSW). Additionally, the project addresses both the gender-specific barriers and social norms that prevent women from entering the workforce.