Sara Ababneh


Jordanian women were an integral part of the Jordanian Popular Movement (al Hirak al Sha’bi al Urduni, Hirak in short) protests in 2011/2012. Yet, despite their large numbers and presence, female protestors did not call for any of the commonly known ‘women’s issues’ (qadaya al mar’a) which include fighting Gender Based Violence (GBV), legal reform, increasing women’s political participation, and women’s economic empowerment. This paper argues that the protestors’ silence concerning most of the problems usually included in the list of ‘women’s issues’ raises the question of how prevalent these issues are (or not) in the lives of Jordanian women. Drawing on Foucault’s notion of discourse, insights from intersectional feminists and critical development studies, I argue that the composition of the Jordanian women’s movement on the one hand, and how these women conceptualize women’s rights discursively, as a result of how global discursive shifts were adopted in Jordan on the other hand, help explain why the list of women’s issues ignores the lived realities of most Jordanian women. In detail, I examine who participated in the Hirak and who did not. I seek to understand the absence of members of the Jordanian Women’s Movement through conducting a historical reading of this movement. In contrast, I study why women members of the Day Wage Labor movement participated in the Hirak. This contrast helps me think through what a list of women’s issues that includes national and communal issues might look like. The paper ends with recent developments in Jordanian women’s rights activism and asks whether intersectional understandings of womanhood are being considered.

Author Biography

Sara Ababneh is Assistant Professor and head of the Political and Social Studies Unit at the Center for Strategic Studies, University of Jordan, Amman, Jordan. Her research interests include, gender, Islamism, popular uprisings, labor movements, and struggles for social justice and economic sovereignty in the context of the Arab Uprisings. Email: ababnehs22@yahoo.com