After graduating from university with a degree in graphic design in 2010, Aya Mohammad was hopeful she would be able to find a job within a few months.
She applied for several vacancies but was unsuccessful for almost two years, and in 2012 she got married. Her marriage did not prevent her from searching for a job, and after submitting many applications and sending her CV to several firms with no luck, she decided to work from home.
Aya says she is an excellent cook. With no job and no children in 2012, she started making sweets and local dishes and selling them to neighbours in Amman’s Tabarour area.
“I started to make a good income of about JD120 to JD150 per month by selling cookies and other dishes such as stuffed grape leaves “yalanji” and chicken musakhan and others,” Aya told 7Dnews.
In 2013, she thought of renting a small store near her home to expand the business, increase her income, support her husband and hire some women as demand was rising, but she did not have enough money.
“I had some savings but they were not enough to buy the necessary cooking tools and rent a store and pay for the bills and taxes, so I went to several banks in my neighourhood to apply for a loan but to no avail as I did not have a bank account, was never an employee with a salary transferred to my bank account and my husband is also not an employee in a firm as he works in a textile shop on his own,” Aya said. She gave up the idea of opening a store and is currently cooking and selling from home, but with two children now it is not easy.
Aya is like many other women entrepreneurs who face difficulties in starting their own businesses in spite of proven potential.
Jordanian women face social, economic and structural challenges that reduce their chances of growing a business, according to a recent report by Endeavor Jordan on current entrepreneurial conditions in Jordan. Investor reluctance, entrepreneurial self-efficacy, access to finance, the conflict between social values and career choices, and legal liability are the main challenges experienced by women pursuing business in the Kingdom, the report showed.
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) report, entrepreneurship has declined in recent years in Jordan, and has not been specifically promising for women. According to the report, Jordan’s Total Entrepreneurship Activity (TEA) reached 8.2% in 2016, dropping from 18.3% in 2004. The report also shows that one of every five individuals (men and women) who are starting a business or running an existing one, has discontinued a business in the last year, and for women, this is instigated by market conditions and lack of profitability (61%), family obligations (16%), and access to finance (13%).
The research confirmed that in Jordan, the processes and policies of business incubators, accelerators and support programmes are gender blind. Women and men are basically treated equally throughout the selection and incubation process. However, only a quarter of incubated entrepreneurs are females.
Economist Wajdi Makhamreh said “the fact that a very modest number of women have their own business and are part of economic activity is a loss to the economy.”
Economic participation of women in Jordan is around 22 per cent, according to the economist.
“There is a wasted opportunity as long as a large number of women remain out of the workforce. It is unfortunate that literacy among women in Jordan is very high, but also unemployment among them is very high,” the economist told 7Dnews.
“It is crucial to remove all obstacles women face and make it easier for them to access credit as this will help create new jobs,” the economist said.