International Development Law Organization

Access to justice for women entrepreneurs in Jordan

16 Dec 2019

Discrimination faced by women entrepreneurs in Jordan prevents their ability to access justice as they engage in business ventures and seek to resolve disputes, according to a new report.

IDLO and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) conducted research on the main barriers women entrepreneurs in Jordan face, obtaining insights from women and men entrepreneurs, institutions and justice sector professionals in the country on why women in business need effective justice systems. The report provides recommendations and practical entry points to build on continuing efforts to support women entrepreneurs’ access to justice.

Despite constituting a growing portion of the business community, the research shows that a range of barriers – legal, economic, practical and social – block women’s economic empowerment and opportunities for their enterprises to meaningfully contribute to the national economy.

Economic barriers, including high court fees and lack of access to affordable legal representation, impeded women entrepreneurs’ ability to effectively resolve their disputes. Discriminatory laws and other legal barriers discourage women from independently filing their claims and going to court. And, even where the law does not discriminate, in practice women report different treatment and outcomes as compared to men due to strong social and cultural stigma.

“As a woman business owner, I try to avoid going to the court as much as possible because it is still socially unexpected to see a woman in court, even if she is there for a justified reason. It may spoil her reputation all together. Therefore, I try to negotiate. However, even when negotiating, I make sure that I have a male relative, or male legal assistant with me. It is difficult for a woman, even a successful businesswoman, to negotiate alone,” reported a woman entrepreneur from Amman.

There are also practical barriers to women entrepreneurs’ access to justice, such as a lack of legal literacy. Women entrepreneurs reported a higher understanding of only two laws when compared to men: bankruptcy and sexual harassment.

The report sets out key recommendations for the government, the justice sector, women entrepreneur organizations and academia so women can realize the full promise of the law and enjoy equality of opportunity.

To this end, training of trainers sessions have been organized under the IDLO-EBRD program to build the capacity of women entrepreneurs and raise their legal awareness. IDLO developed a training manual to help women business owners navigate issues that affect their businesses, including through the use of mediation and other alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

“The research resulted in a number of policy options which will help further IDLO’s efforts in ensuring inclusive and accessible justice and improving gender equality as key factors towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular SDGs 16 and 5,” remarked Nancy Fashho, IDLO’s Senior Program Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa.

From reforming laws, to enhancing alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, to strengthening gender equality in the justice sector and developing legal literacy programs, the recommendations lay out the many ways that justice systems can improve to draw women into the entrepreneurial sphere and to create an environment in which women entrepreneurs can thrive. 

Photo: ©​ EBRD

Read the full report here and download a summary of the key findings and recommendations below: