Paving the road for women plumbers in Zarqa

The Millennium Challenge Account Jordan (MCA-Jordan) has as an ultimate goal to contribute to poverty reduction and economic growth in Zarqa Governorate. The Water Smart Homes Activity (WSHs-A) aims to improve in-house water management among Zarqa’s households through an outreach campaign to increase their knowledge of good water management practices, and a direct intervention to assist poor families to conduct in-home water system repairs. The WSHs-A includes a component to facilitate income generating opportunities for women such as setting up sustainable water-related small businesses or other similar activities to enable women to complement their family income. Within this component, MCA-Jordan focused on development of plumbing businesses among women, building on the lessons learned by other development organizations with regard to women plumbers’ projects in Jordan. Similar initiatives had been undertaken, however results were mixed and little information was available regarding the long-term income generating impact or sustainability of the businesses. MCA-Jordan and its Consultant felt that by building on lessons learned and the knowledge of the plumbing business, a successful women’s plumber program could be built in Zarqa Governorate. 

The program design… Using local multi-disciplinary knowledge, skills and synergy; and building on previous experiences in Jordan, the Women Plumber Program (WPP) was designed. 

The WPP consists of four stages: (1) theoretical and practical training at VTC, (2) field practical training with contractors, (3) small business planning, marketing and management training, and (4) coaching and mentoring during business startup.

To assist in start-up of their businesses the women plumbers will receive a tool box, a smartphone with credit, business cards and flyers. Adequate promotion and financial support, key to building a successful business, will be facilitated through linkages between the women plumbers and the women’s NGO network of Zarqa, as well as micro finance institutions and other existing networks and programs. 

A key success factor, to ensure that the pilot program would be successful, was the development of an appropriate background profile for the selection of trainees. The profile required that the candidates should have: (1) basic mathematical skills (for unit conversion), (2) appropriate age range (know how to avoid harassment), (3) health and security clearance (to perform the activity), (4) motivation and purpose (to make it a source of additional income), and (5) family support for their involvement (due to cultural reasons). 

The recruitment process… With the collaboration of women NGOs and lending partners, a four phase recruitment process was implemented: (1) search for potential candidates, (2) information sessions, (3) interview with candidates, and (4) informative session for the families of the short-listed candidates. Out of all applicants, 30 trainees were selected to receive the training at the VTC center of Russeifeh. 

The first stage… A 4-week training course was held by VTC for the 30 women. Due to cultural reasons, the main concern was that the selected women would not remain committed to attending the entire training course, would withdraw from practical study, or would not attend the theoretical and practical exams. 

Due to the professionalism of the staff of VTC, the trainees quickly understood the importance of the training. This led to a notable success of the program - the women showed high commitment and enthusiasm to the training. There were no absentees, no withdrawal cases, the trainees came early before the classes started, and they prepared the training hall and the morning refreshment for their colleagues. 

At the end of the training, all the women trainees passed the theoretical and practical exams. Their success was a shared accomplishment of the highly committed trainers, facilitators and executives of VTC and the dedication of the women trainees. 

During the graduation ceremony at VTC, Mariam (one of the trainees) said: “At the beginning I was doubtful and hesitating…returning to a classroom to try to do a man’s job scared me. But as the days went by I felt the value of the training. I would have regretted all my life if I had not joined this training. I gained new knowledge and skills to start my small plumbing business to help my family. I have new friends, and got the highest score, of 93 points, in the exams.”