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Macalester College

Publication Date

Spring 2006

Program Name

Jordan: Modernization and Social Change


Recent developments in women’s legislative rights in Jordan, and rising interest in women’s issues throughout the world, have sparked interest in women’s political participation. The purpose of this study is to investigate why, despite numerous advancements for women in Jordanian society, women have not gained greater representation in political processes. This study is based primarily on interviews with 15 Jordanian women between the ages of 18 and 36, as well as interviews with 6 professionals in the field of women’s studies in Jordan. The results of these interviews were analyzed within a theoretical framework provided by literary sources. Research was focused on four independent variables—family, Islam, women’s civil society organizations, and the quota for women in Parliament introduced in 2003—and the ways in which they inhibit or assist women’s political participation. Political participation in this study denotes participation, in roles of decision-making and leadership, in both civil society and political processes. The results of the research indicate that the family structure and the process of socialization within the family serve as obstacles to women’s political empowerment, as does the system of Islamic values in Jordan. The activities of women’s civil society organizations in Jordan hamper women’s abilities to achieve empowerment because they do not facilitate women’s participation in decision-making roles. The women’s quota in Parliament facilitates—and is a necessary but imperfect first step to—women’s political empowerment. Women are still widely perceived, by both men and women, as less-capable of serving in leadership roles. Analysis of the findings indicates that the barriers to women’s empowerment lie in the social structure and value systems of Jordanian society—namely patriarchal gender roles. Patriarchal gender roles are perpetuated through socialization in the family—which is the central unit of Jordanian society—and are carried out by Islam and within other areas of society. Legislative and economical gains have not effectively improved women’s political empowerment because they do not address gender roles or societal perceptions of women, and thus do not allow women to surmount the social barriers to equal participation.


Inequality and Stratification | Public Administration


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