Mona's journey through climate change and gender equality in Jordan
28 September 2023
By Mona (26) Jordan via UNICEF Middle East and North Africa Regional Office
I am Mona, a Jordanian residing in the Shouneh region of southern Jordan, near the Dead Sea. I am a young climate advocate specializing in environmental justice and gender equality. I collaborate with UNICEF as a youth skills empowerment trainer. I aim to raise awareness about climate change and the gendered impacts it has on my community.
The Shouneh region, known for its humid and hot climate, is considered Jordan's "green basket" and plays a crucial role in our national food security. Over time, I've observed increasing land degradation due to everyday practices and decisions. This degradation not only impacts our agriculture but also exacerbates water scarcity, drought, and desertification.
My goal is to inspire young people, especially young women, to become pioneers in social change and environmental justice. I emphasize gender equality and the dismantling of gender stereotypes, aspiring to create a brighter future for all.
According to the UNICEF Children’s Climate Risk Index, Jordan is deemed a high-risk country. As one of the world's most water-scarce countries, this scarcity profoundly affects our communities. Climate change disproportionately impacts girls and women because of the gender norms that dictate their societal roles and responsibilities, limiting their access to knowledge and resources. For instance, many girls drop out of school to fulfill traditional gender roles, assisting their mothers in agriculture or performing unpaid domestic labor. The repercussions of climate change affect women not just because of their societal status but also due to their potential as valuable contributors to the solution.
Recognizing these challenges motivated me to champion change. By enhancing climate awareness, I aimed to foster adaptation, ensuring environmental stability, healthier livelihoods, and peace.
At the outset, I faced hurdles. Many families in our region grapple with economic hardships, pushing young girls to abandon education to work domestically or on farms. Furthermore, numerous girls aren't permitted to engage in community efforts or societal activities. Undeterred, I mustered the courage to pioneer climate-related activities, emphasizing the importance of young individuals, particularly girls, in leadership roles.
With the help of other girls in my community, we launched initiatives like cultivating climate-resilient crops and establishing school gardens. These projects allowed me to educate children about environmental preservation while fostering valuable skills and habits. Our efforts culminated in the "Child Friends of Nature" anthem, a testament to our shared purpose.
To bolster girls' participation, I penned a play titled "Our Home, Our Life" to underscore the daily implications of climate change and promote sustainable community practices. As the play toured schools, it garnered significant attention, enhancing girls' self-assuredness and decision-making capabilities.
Furthering our initiatives, the girls and I painted murals illustrating the perils of climate change. We instituted recycling programs in schools and creatively repurposed used car tires as classroom seating. These endeavors resonated with students and parents alike. One standout project was converting an old bus into a library, situated amidst our thriving gardens. Additionally, a drawing competition inspired adolescents to envision a brighter, climate-conscious future. The Jordanian Government recognizes the pivotal role youth play in climate decision-making, as seen in the Jordanian Specific Contributions in the most recent Jordan NDC. Our hard work eventually culminated in a national award for environmental preservation.
My dedication to my community didn't go unnoticed. UNICEF invited me to represent Jordanian women at a global conference. There, I had the privilege of sharing our experiences with attendees from around the globe, highlighting the intersection of climate issues and gender equality, particularly in the context of Jordan.
I remain steadfast in my commitment to gender justice and the empowerment of women. Their role in shaping a sustainable, peaceful future is undeniable.