Empowering rural women in Mafraq Governorate through the management and preservation of the Umm el-Jimal's archaeological site in Jordan as income-generating activities

Beautiful archaeological sites like this in Umm el-Jimal require promotion in tourism ©UNESCO/Valentina Gamba

Mafraq Governorate lies within one of Jordan’s poverty pockets, with a poverty rate of nearly 32% against the national average of 14%, affected as well by the lowest grade on the Human and Gender-related Development Index in Jordan. Umm el-Jimal is a village located within the Mafraq Governorate, emerging as a “poverty pocket within the poverty pocket” with approximately 100,000 Syrian refugees living in the Za’atari Camp, 20 km southwest of this village. Women are the most marginalized group due to traditional attitudes.

Mafraq is also a Governorate with tremendous cultural assets, including remarkable archaeological and historical sites. The archaeological record of Umm el-Jimal is extremely well preserved and bears evidence of 700 years of occupation during antiquity, from the Nabataean period, through the Roman, Byzantine, and Umayyad periods. In 2001, the site was included by the Government of Jordan in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Tentative List for potential future nomination. The modern history of Umm el-Jimal starts in the 20th century when Druze groups from Syria and Lebanon, and later the tribe of Msa’eid, occupied Umm el-Jimal’s ruins for living purposes. Until the 1970’s, when Jordan’s Government prohibited such use of antiquities, the community of Umm el-Jimal inhabited the historical buildings. The modern village of Umm el-Jimal was hence established at the borders of the archaeological site with the local community maintaining a strong link to it.

The Joint Programme initiated by UNESCO in partnership with UN Women, promotes a human-rights based approach to socio-economic development targeting the village of Umm el-Jimal as a pilot implementation area for culture and tourism-based female entrepreneurship and the promotion of a gender-responsive business environment. Every year, several thousand tourists visit Umm el-Jimal due to its unique archaeological site and greater numbers could be attracted through increased site promotion among international tourists and schools in Jordan. The Joint Programme enables the Women’s Association, “Jamaiyya al-Nashmiat Um el-Jimal al-Chairieh” to set up entrepreneurial activities catering to these tourist flows and offering a combination of hospitality services, handicraft production and informal tour guiding. The programme also includes a key component focusing on women’s rights and empowerment, an element crucial to the promotion of a gender-responsive business environment in Umm el-Jimal.

The Programme pursues three key expected results:

  • The establishment of entrepreneurial activities, through women’s capacity building in tourism-related services and handicraft production. Providing a space where these activities can be implemented;
  • The enhanced visibility and promotion of the archaeological site of Umm el-Jimal and of available tourism services, with the goal of increasing tourism flows to the site and supporting the Association’s business activities and sustainability;
  • The capitalization on lessons learned through similar projects in Jordan, guaranteed by an exchange of experience with target groups and project beneficiaries across the country. This will ensure optimal cost effectiveness and wider impact of project strategies.



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