Women Plumbers Changing Face of Employment in Syria and Jordan

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    Indoor plumbing dates back thousands of years to the Middle East, circa 2500 B.C., but for some developing countries, indoor plumbing is still a new concept. While everyone needs access to water, the typical modern home’s water use is 45% toilet use, 30% bathing, 20% laundry and dishes, and just 5% drinking and cooking.

    For Middle Eastern countries Jordan and Syria, indoor plumbing is a profession that has been primarily done by men. Until now.

    Syria has been riddled with domestic and international conflict for the past few years. Because of this, the Population and Housing Census for 2015 reported that 16.9% of Syrian families are headed by women, followed by 12.8% of Jordanian families. As a result, Syrian and Jordanian women have turned to plumbing as a means to support their families in a time of escalating crisis.

    Safa Sukariya is one of these women. She fled Damascus back in 2013 and settled in Irbid, Jordan with little discretionary income. Deciding to try something different, she enrolled in a grant-based training program sponsored by the German Center for International Cooperation at the Hakama Vocational Training Institute back in 2015.

    At first, Sukariya had to deal with backlash for her uncharacteristic choice due to the traditional societal norms of her Muslim country, which rarely sees women in the workforce.

    She explains to the Al-Monitor, “Society did not initially accept the idea, but over time people began to tolerate the existence of a workshop for women who live alone, especially Syrians who have lost their husbands in the war.”

    After completing her plumbing course, Sukariya established her own plumbing business that provides the sole income for herself, another Syrian woman, and three Jordanian women.

    While Sukariya’s drive to establish a quality small business can serve as an inspiration to women everywhere looking to join the workforce, she is still facing some problems in a country that focuses primarily on male employment. For example, under traditional Muslim culture, male strangers are forbidden to enter a home without another male being present, and women are almost always forbidden to enter unless accompanied by a member of their own family. However, changing these out-dated perceptions is what Sukariya and her women co-workers are trying to do.

    And it looks like this small plumbing business is making strides already.

    There are no reports on Syrian women in the workforce, but these plumbers seem to be making quite a large impact. According to Jordan’s Economic and Social Council, women’s total economic contributions now total 15% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.