The training room is crowded this afternoon: 30 Syrian and Jordanian women buzz around in blue overalls, carrying large orange toolboxes. Scattered in small groups across the room, some cut a pipe, dismantle taps or fix a sink siphon.
In Mafraq, northern Jordan, the sight of a woman performing this kind of manual work is highly uncommon. ACTED is working to change this, providing 28 women with the opportunity to qualify as plumbers through a one month training course.
Jordan is among the most water-scarce countries on earth. This scarcity is aggravated by pressure on all resources; Jordan currently hosts over 655,000 Syrian refugees. Conserving water is a priority; however, much water is lost at household level due to damaged pipes and broken appliances. Likewise, many vulnerable families live with damaged pipes, water tanks or toilets, that they cannot repair and maintain due to a lack of knowledge or resources.
Despite having primary responsibility for water usage in the house due to traditional gender roles, women are not traditionally accustomed to taking the responsibility for fixing leaks or clean water tanks; tasks generally performed by men. Due to cultural factors, female-headed households are also marginalized through the social norms which discourage women from letting men inside their homes, even for basic repairs.
ACTED launched a Female Plumber club to help women better resolve the plumbing needs in their households, improving each family’s ability to meet their own water and sanitation needs.
While supporting 400 households in need of urgent water and sanitation repairs, ACTED identified nearly 60 women interested in the plumbing training. At the beginning, 45 women participated in a five-days training in intermediate plumbing, covering the maintenance of basic utilities (water tanks and water heaters). Many participants were eager to go further: therefore, in December, ACTED selected 30 women with an intermediate level in plumbing for a month of advanced training. They learned essential skills like how to fit pipes, repair water tanks or change a tap.
Salma, one of the advanced training participants, said: “If I can have my own business one day, why not? I have told my neighbours that I am trained in plumbing. Maybe other women living alone will be interested to invite me into their house for repairs. If I ever get the chance to return to Syria, it could be easier thanks to my plumbing skills.”
The training had an immediate impact in the lives of the beneficiaries: “In the past, when something was broken in the house and my husband was not home, I asked the neighbour to come with his wife, because I did not want to have a man inside my house. But now, I can fix things myself” said Kholoud, a housewife from Mafraq governorate.
The women who attended the first round of training improved their knowledge on how to conserve water in their house and fix simple leaks. Furthermore, all the women who attended the second round of training graduated with a certification in plumbing, which will enable them to work as in-house plumbers in Jordan, Syria or in neighboring countries. Through ACTED’s intervention, they can now access livelihood opportunities traditionally unavailable to them as women.
In the past, when something was broken in the house and my husband was not home, I asked the neighbour to come with his wife, because I did not want to have a man inside my house. But now, I can fix things myself
— the field