Jordan: Abused women’s shelter will continue operating despite closure order’

A room in the shelter in Amman

The Jordanian Women’s Union (JWU, national focal point of Social Watch) vowed to continue offering services to abused women at its shelter in Amman despite a recent decision by the Ministry of Social Development to close it down, reported journalist Rana Husseini in an article published in The Jordan Times.

Last Thursday, the ministry ordered the closure of the shelter, opened in 1999 in Jabal Hussein, because the JWU did not have the proper licence to run it, Social Development Ministry Spokesperson Fawaz Ratrout said.

Ratrout explained that the ministry had issued regulations governing shelters in Jordan in 2004 while in the process of establishing the Family Reconciliation Centre (FRC) that opened in 2007, but the JWU never obtained the required licence.

“Since 2010, we have sent the JWU several memos instructing them to obtain a licence and finally two months ago we sent them a final warning but they did not respond to us,” he told The Jordan Times.

On Wednesday, Ratrout added, the ministry sent a memo to the Amman governor asking him to shut down the facility because it was in violation of the 2004 regulations.

But JWU President Amneh Zu’bi said the union had not received anything official from the ministry or the governor ordering the closure of their shelter, and was astonished to learn of the decision in the news.

“We will continue our work as normal. We have 16 women housed in the shelter and we cannot just throw them out into the street,” Zu’bi told The Jordan Times, adding that the shelter receives many difficult cases from the FRC and other government entities.

“We are really surprised by this because we have strong cooperation with the ministry and its shelter and are offering services to difficult cases and cases of non-Jordanian women, which the ministry’s reconciliation house does not deal with,” she added.

Zu’bi acknowledged that the ministry had sent the union several memos asking it to obtain a licence in 2010, but denied that the JWU had ignored them.

On the contrary, she said, the union has been working to obtain the licence for some time but has been hindered by a convoluted bureaucratic process.

“We need to contact several governmental organisations such as the Ministry of Health, the Civil Defence Department, the Public Security Department and many others to come and visit the premises and issue their approval and this takes time,” she explained.

After obtaining all the necessary documents, she noted, “the last hindrance came from the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM), which refused to issue a licence because we had two 20-metre rooms with tiled ceilings instead of regular ceilings and GAM asked the union to change them in order to get the licence.”

“We are working on this matter and it will take time, but we will continue our work as normal by providing services and refuge to women 24 hours a day because this is a moral and national obligation,” Zu’bi insisted.

Ratrout said the JWU will still have to apply for a licence from the ministry after they obtain one from GAM.

“This is what the regulations stipulate and we abide by it and once they settle the matter we will examine their request and proceed from there,” the ministry official said.

The JWU shelter opened in 1999 as a small premises with limited resources and services for abused women and grew over the years as funding became available, Zu’bi explained.

It can accommodate up to 20 women at a time, along with their children, and trains them in skills such as computer technology, cooking, tailoring and hairdressing.

The shelter has helped over 1,000 women and their children since its establishment, according to Zu’bi.

The JWU was first established in 1945, dissolved several times, then formally established in 1989. Its 15,000 members work to improve women's status by offering them services and training and lobbying for the elimination of discriminatory laws.

The union and the social development ministry are the only two entities in Jordan which operate shelters for abused women.

In 2007, the ministry opened the FRC to provide protection and counselling for abuse victims and offer temporary shelter for abused women and children under the age of five.

The centre operates 24 hours a day and can accommodate 35 to 50 women and 36 children.

It offers social, psychological, family, legal, health and religious counselling for women, children and men; and simultaneously provides security, empowerment and training.

The centre’s goals include conducting rehabilitative programmes for both men and women to help them resolve domestic disputes amicably.

The Jordan Times: