By Sheila M. Dabu
AMMAN — With kuffiyeh draped over their shoulders, university students Wajdi Sahawneh and Mohammad Sela were beaming with pride as they unveiled the prototype of their magazine at Mafraq′s Al al Bayt University on Wednesday.
“It is the first magazine in Mafraq Governorate that will focus on problems of the youth such as poverty and unemployment,” Sahawneh told The Jordan Times.
Sahawneh and Sela are two of 30 residents of Mafraq who received a grant to start their own income-generating projects from the National Goodwill Campaign, a 15-year-old initiative of the Jordan Hashemite Fund for Human Development (JOHUD ).
HRH Princess Basma presented 30 scholarships to students at Al al Bayt University on Wednesday, as well as 30 grants and 30 wheelchairs divided equally amongst three main communities in Mafraq Governorate, namely Salheyeh-Nayfeh, Um Jmal and Sarhan.
“In spite of economic hardships, the local community and recipients of the Goodwill grants are contributing to the success of this project, which keeps growing stronger each year,” Princess Basma told students and local community members gathered at Al al Bayt University.
The poverty level in the Salheyeh-Nayfeh community is 48.2 per cent, in Um Jmal, it is 34.6 per cent and in Sarhan, 28.1 per cent.
“JOHUD has 30 years of experience. We have learned so much from our fieldwork. All of our experience in JOHUD′s sustainable development centres throughout the Kingdom has been hands-on,” Princess Basma added.
There are about 50 local community development centres all over the Kingdom functioning under JOHUD, including seven in Mafraq which serve more than 148 residential communities.
The Goodwill Campaign was first launched in 1991, two years after the economic crisis where the dinar lost nearly half of its value.
The campaign also supports other local income-generating projects such as Queen Zein Al Sharaf Institute for Development′s (ZENID) “Pockets of Poverty” project.
Huda Hakki, director of ZENID′s Development Information Unit, told The Jordan Times that in the Mafraq Governorate, “the project will help facilitate the work of the local community to educate citizens about their rights, to improve services and provide opportunities for marginalised groups.”
MAKANA, another project sponsored by CARE Jordan and a joint initiative of JOHUD and ZENID, promotes civic activism as a vehicle for empowering women and ensuring access to their rights.
Hakki said there are also medium-sized income-generating projects, which will create jobs and improve investment conditions.
“It′s essentially about empowerment... It′s also about shifting the mentality of providing job opportunities,” Hakki said.
Fatima Salameh said the Goodwill grant she received three years ago helped her establish a sheep-raising enterprise and the revenues of her cheese production business enabled her to send her three daughters to school.
Suad Aqur hopes to achieve the same success with her grant to start a sheep-raising venture.
“The grant will bring me income for the nine members of my family,” she told The Jordan Times.
The causes of poverty are distance and isolation of the communities, weak services provided by local institutions, a mismatch of skills with available jobs and the scarcity of local production projects, according to JOHUD.
The National Goodwill Campaign is based on the Islamic values of solidarity and support and emphasises the importance of cooperation and participation. It culminates every year during the Holy Month of Ramadan.
The campaign has two dimensions: The human dimension whereby families below the poverty line are provided with medical services, university scholarships, essential food items and clothing, while the development dimension is achieved by assisting underprivileged families in starting their own income-generating projects.