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Thursday, February 2, 2006

Arab Women's Day Women activists brief Queen on local successes, challenges

(The Jordan Times - Madaba) Her Majesty Queen Rania on Wednesday met with women activists working under the Women's Empowerment for Democracy and Governance Project — MAKANA in Madaba and underlined the importance of their role in addressing problems facing local communities.

Under the MAKANA project, women volunteers help address domestic daily life problems in their areas through listening to local demands and conveying these to officials.

Such problems include the absence of litter containers, insufficient transportation, infrastructure issues, education, environment and poverty.

During Queen Rania's meeting with MAKANA volunteers yesterday, in commemoration of Arab Women's Day, she listened to their success stories in the area, their needs and the challenges they face.

“You are the voice of the local communities and decision-makers listen to this voice as you represent your local community,” Queen Rania told the volunteers, lauding their efforts to deal with the needs of the area's residents and stimulate positive change in their locality.

“What you are doing in addressing your community's concerns and needs is effective and is something that everybody is proud of, because change, through what you are doing, stems from within you and this is the way it should be since you know the needs of your communities,” the Queen said.

MAKANA volunteers briefed Her Majesty on how they spread awareness among the local residents of their rights, adding that they learnt how to function as a bridge between the local population and government officials.

They told the Queen their participation in MAKANA also helped them change the stereotypical image of women and helped them contribute to the local development process.

One of the organisation's success stories in the Mleih District was to help families obtain support from the National Aid Fund.

The volunteers also said they managed to procure 100 trash containers, have streets lights installed, and create a classroom for children with special needs, in addition to addressing other issues.

However, the volunteers told Queen Rania that they faced a lot of challenges, among them the perception in the local community that women have no business in public affairs.

“This is a major problem we face, but we keep insisting and following up on the issue until our needs are met,” said the volunteers, adding that there were some issues they has been following up with the concerned officials for a long time, but to no avail.

Queen Rania visited the area's healthcare centre, where she was briefed on the services provided to local residents and issued directives for the concerned authorities to follow up on the women's demands.

The MAKANA activists said they needed an ambulance, as the Mleih Healthcare Centre did not have one, and also complained that the dental chair in the centre was in bad condition.

In addition, they requested a wastewater truck for the district.

The Queen also directed authorities to construct a park close to the centre, plant trees in it and equip it with playgrounds.

Also yesterday, the Queen visited the Knowledge Station in Mleih, which His Majesty King Abdullah inaugurated in 2001. The station has trained a large number of residents on basic computer skills and provided them with Internet access.

At the end of her tour, Queen Rania visited a family in the area, listened to their demands and gave instructions for maintenance work to be carried out on their house.

MAKANA, sponsored by CARE Jordan, is a joint initiative by the Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development (JOHUD) and the Queen Zein Al Sharaf Institute for Development (ZENID).

The project was launched in February 2004 in the governorates of Karak, Jerash and Madaba.

Jordan Times, Thursday, February 2, 2006