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She Too is a Development Hero: Women Make Change Happen in Host Municipalities across MENA and Turkey

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Mar 10, 2020 / 0 Comments

The empowerment of Refugee women and their self-reliance is increasingly at the center of development programs in local governments hosting forcibly displaced persons in Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Turkey target. How about those women who develop such municipal programs and deal with women’s inclusion while being women themselves?


This photo story showcases a series of portraits of female municipal and governmental representatives in countries dealing with forced displacement. All these women are part of the CMI’s Host Municipalities Learning Network. The quotes are based on a series of interviews with participants in the first CMI Training Workshop on Strategic Planning for LED in Forced Displacement Contexts (Amman, Jordan, March 19-23, 2018).



She Challenges Stereotypes


Raida Hanania, Strategic Development Investment Plan (SDIP) Coordinator, Quality Management Unit Director, Bethlehem Municipality and, Local Economic Development Council, Secretary General, Bethlehem District, Palestine



“I am the first woman to be designated Department Director in the history of Bethlehem Municipality, since its establishment back in 1872. When I started my career, I was still a young single woman in my early twenties while other directors were all males, and much older. The prevailing male-dominated culture made it hard for my colleagues to accept my decision in pursuing a career and working my way-up through the public administration. After many challenges, I finally achieved my ambition. I obtained a professional diploma in public administration and an MBA with a thesis focused on Bethlehem’s local economic development. I worked hard on myself, and I do deserve the title of first female Department Director in Bethlehem Municipality.


Over time, people became more open- minded. Six years ago, Bethlehem got its first female mayor!  It was an achievement with regards to changing mindsets and transforming mentalities. Since then, the number of women civil servants and leaders has increased in Palestine overall and in Bethlehem Municipality in particular. The number is on the rise. Nowadays, the Local Economic Development council of Bethlehem district includes 4 women out of its 11 members. This establishes a gender balance and proves that women are strategic decision-makers when it comes to the development and improvement of our local economic environment.”



She Inspires


Malak Hijazi, Social Worker, Field Officer and Area Coordinator, Shield NGO, & UNDP Key Facilitator, Lebanon



“I was the first woman to work with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in an area composed of 10 municipalities in Southern Lebanon. For this reason, I engaged in working groups on gender and trainings on women empowerment. In my region (Marjeyoun and Hasbaya Cazas), municipalities have no gender balance, which poses a significant challenge. I feel that I can do something for my country, my region and myself. Overcoming obstacles strengthened my personality and made me more competent and efficient. I also work as an Arabic literature teacher in a public school: my aim is to change mentalities and to help new generations become more open-minded.”



She Empowers


Wafa Abu Samra, Financial and Business Advisor, Cities and Village Development Bank (CVDB), Jordan



“We still face obstacles. When it comes to gender balance in the workplace, regulations are not effective, neither in the public nor the private sector. As women, we face discrimination when it comes to work opportunities. This is why, in parallel to my position at CVDB, I am also a member of the “Jordan Forum for Business and Professional Women”, an association that helps women play more effective roles by tackling obstacles and by “promoting equal opportunities, rights, and leadership roles in the business sector”. I am also the co-founder of “Women on Board – Jordan”, an association established in November 2018, aiming at promoting women’s presence in key positions and boards.  A hard-working woman must unfortunately exert more efforts than a man, to obtain what she wants from her family, work, and from the community.”




She Succeeds


Asia Mohammad Hassan, General Director, and Afnan Hadi Bahader, Director, Studies Department, General Directorate of Physical Planning, Ministry of Construction, Housing, Municipalities and Public Works, Iraq



“In Iraq women do not suffer much from gender discrimination, especially in the governmental sector. Generally, women participation in the labor market and in public life is very high. Sometimes it is even higher than men. For instance, the Minister of public works is a woman, and so are many directors in our department.”


PS: The views, opinions, and statements expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Center for Mediterranean Integration, or any of its members and partners.

Gilda Borriello

Gilda joined the CMI in September 2016 working for the Refugees and Host Community Program, where she supports the Host Municipalities Network’s activities and conducts research on the economic and social integration of refugees in host countries. Prior to that, she interned for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (anti-discrimination section) in Geneva, Switzerland, and volunteered in an asylum seekers’ reception center in Rixensart, Belgium. Passionate about migration issues and the Middle East, she holds a Bachelor degree in International Relations with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Naples “L’Orientale”, a Summer School degree in International Politics from the London School of Economics, and a Master Degree in Development Studies from the University of Bologna, where she defended a thesis on the economic integration of the Mediterranean region through migration. Gilda is fluent in Italian, English, and French, and has a basic knowledge of Arabic and Spanish.


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