Jordan is suffering from one of the world’s worst water shortage crises, exacerbated by increased demand from an influx of more than 600,000 Syrian refugees. Making matters worse, 40% of the water delivered through the nation’s tanks, taps and pipes is lost through leakage – and there can be very long delays fixing pipes as a male plumber is usually not allowed into the house without a male family member being present. To speed things up, and to raise awareness and education levels about water saving, the country has now trained more than 300 of its women in a profession traditionally reserved for men: plumbing.
Results & Impact
More than 300 women have now been trained in plumbing and water management skills in 15 different areas of Jordan. These women have spread knowledge about the water crisis to tens of thousands of other community members. In those areas, there has been a 30-40% reduction in household water consumption. Around 10-15% of the women trained have been Syrian refugees, and 23 women have formed a cooperative through which they put their new plumbing skills to commercial use with contracts in some schools and government departments. Estimates indicate that up to 40% of water transported nationwide by pipe is lost to leakage, mainly due to dilapidation and improper installation and maintenance.
Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development (JOHUD), Jordan's Ministry of Water and Irrigation, the Germany Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Each group of “Water Wise Women” goes through eight different levels of training run by a German expert from GIZ and supervised by program alumni. The levels include: eradicating water leakage, harnessing technology, reducing water usage in the household, and improving hygiene. Each trained woman is expected to disseminate the technology and information within their community, and to reach out to at least 20-25 other women. They are given funding for travel for this outreach, and at the end of the course, each participant receives a box of tools. After training, the women are then able to fix leaks in their own homes as well as in their female neighbours' houses. Those that are interested can join the commercial cooperative.
Women and girls
Cost & Value
The main funding came from the German government through GIZ. Saving water through fast leak repairs saves vast resources: around 40% of the water transported by pipe is lost nationwide because pipelines are dilapidated and sometimes have not properly installed or maintained.
Running since 2014
At the start, the idea of women training as plumbers was met with resistance by men, especially within some rural areas, which is why the basic training was initially set up to manage leaks in the women's own homes, and not with a commercial end goal. Now the challenge is financial: with the whole country suffering from a water crisis, there are no longer funds available to disseminate the program.
Jordan is suffering from one of the world’s worst water scarcity crises. It has less water per capita available than almost any other country in the world, and the tight supply has been further strained by the influx of more than 600,000 refugees from the war in neighbouring Syria.
Exacerbating the crisis is a system that is, fundamentally, leaky. It is estimated that 40% of water transported by pipes around the country is lost to leakage, due to dilapidated pipes and tanks and improper installation and maintenance. Often pipes are very slow to be fixed, as traditionally a male family member must be in the house for a man to install or fix something.
So, with funding from the German government’s Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), Jordan embarked on Water Wise Women, a program to train its women to fix the leaks themselves. “We’ve now trained more than 300 women plumbers in 15 different locations across the country,” said Mutassim al Hayari, Director of the Natural Resources Management Program at The Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development (JOHUD).
“The knowledge and training of these women plumbers should really be spread at a wider scale throughout Jordan; the whole country is suffering”
Beyond eradicating leakage, the program also involves awareness raising and education on managing water and reducing usage within the household.
“The main person who consumes water at the household level is the woman; it’s the housewife. Because of that, we thought of this initiative designed to reduce water consumption at the household level, and also to empower women [for] social development,” said al Hayari.
As well as being able to fix the leaks in their own homes and female neighbours’ homes themselves – without needing a man – these women have also spread knowledge about the water crisis and how to manage it domestically with tens of thousands of other community members. Women are given funding for travel for this outreach, although finances are increasingly limited. In the 15 areas that have Water Wise Women groups, the Ministry for Water and Irrigation found that there has been a 30-40% reduction in household water consumption.
Though mainly made up of Jordanians, the program has also trained refugees. “Around 10-15% of the women trained are Syrian refugees,” said al Hayari. “We’re keen to raise Syrians’ awareness about our water shortage situation in Jordan, because in Syria where they come from they’re not suffering from scarcity.”
The initiative does not pay the women, or directly aim to lead them into employment. “It’s mainly about changing behaviour and raising awareness,” he said.
This is in part a result of some of the initial community responses to the idea of female plumbers. “In the very beginning, it was seen as very unusual that women could be trained in plumbing, especially in rural areas. So this is why we conceived the basic training on plumbing for the household level, and not the commercial level, because at that level the idea was accepted by the men,” said al Hayari.
“We’re keen to raise Syrians’ awareness about our water shortage situation in Jordan, because in Syria they’re not suffering from scarcity”
However, upon completing training the women are given a box of tools to enable them to set up their own business or form a cooperative, if that is what they want. A group of 23 of the trained women in different locations have now formed a cooperative professional association and have turned their skills to commercial benefit.
“With the cooperative we now have for the women plumbers, they have started to work commercially. They go from village to village to provide their services,” said al Hayari. “They’ve got contracts with some schools and government departments to repair water tanks, for example.”
More than 20 women have passed the official test of the Jordanian Vocational Training Corporation (VTC) and became “semi-skilled workers”, and one woman – Safaa Sukkariah – set up her own business after the training and now employs five other female plumbers.
The challenge now is finding a way to continue to spread the insights and learning from the program around the country – with limited funding. “The knowledge and training of these women should really be spread at a wider scale throughout Jordan; the whole country is suffering from water scarcity. That’s the real challenge now,” said al Hayari.
(Picture credits: GIZ/Thomas Imo)