This profile was prepared when Zeinab Al-Momani was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2009.
The New Idea
Zeinab has organized the Arab region’s first farmers’ union for poor marginalized women, thus giving them a voice. Through the union and a number of agricultural cooperatives, she has eased the limitations faced by marginalized women in rural Jordan, organizing them into cooperatives and unions and providing women with access to economic and social opportunities. Through the union and cooperatives, these marginalized rural women are trained, exposed to different experiences, and empowered so that together they could voice their needs and concerns and participate in decision-making processes. Aware of the oppression and poverty that rural women in Jordan and throughout the Middle East are subjected to, Zeinab designed a plan, starting with the village of Sakhrah-Ajloun, to organize women into a union to leverage their collective power and enable them to obtain their rights as to promote economic, cultural and social development. In a region where women are not allowed to control their resources nor land and have never been included in male dominated agricultural unions, Zeinab’s initiatives have contributed to solving social problems in marginalized regions and are gradually bringing about a change in culture by raising awareness among men on women's contribution to the household. In the Arab world, citizen organizations concerned with women’s empowerment have managed to empower women socially, culturally and economically but have not organized women into self sustaining organizations. Zeinab’s associations are the only institutions that truly contribute to women’s development in a sustainable and participatory manner, equipping women with self-sustaining tools and skills. Zeinab’s model is simple and could be replicated throughout the Levant and the greater Arab region in the next five years.