Dima Karadsheh

“Reach out for your passion.”

I grew up in a traditional Arab home, in a town near Amman. When it came to my career, I never had much of a choice other than a traditional one in the education sector. After graduating from university, I started to work for the Ministry of Education and stayed there for 16 years, living the ultimate ordinary life. I had a great job and a happy family – but something was always missing. In my thirties, when my children grew up, I decided to take the plunge. I quit my job and pursued a Master Degree in Women’s Studies at the University of Jordan.

My family thought I was crazy! Why leave such a secure and good job? I made my decision accounting all consequences. Throughout my time at the Ministry, I built a firm network of connections and was engaged in many voluntary initiatives in my community. This guided me to discover my passion: help and support people in need. I became a researcher and trainer in human- and women’s rights, as well as many other development issues and later a Gender and Protection Advisor.

Now, as a mentor for the ANA HUNNA female mentoring project, there is one advice I share with all my mentees: develop a network with organizations and at a personal level. Volunteer. Somehow get your foot in the door – it will always prove to be helpful later on. And, even more importantly, never settle for less than what you really want.

In my opinion, the ANA HUNNA female mentoring project is not only a great opportunity for students, but for me as well. I strongly believe, that when we help people, we help ourselves. I want to convey the real journey. I will not only share my success, but my struggles and failures, too. I want all girls to know, that the road will be hard sometimes, but it will always be worth it. Thus I have centered my mentorship not just on economic empowerment but on self-empowerment as well, by building a strong self-esteem and developing emotional intelligence to help girls conquer their fears. I also utilise ANA HUNNA materials and films to raise awareness in trainings and workshops. One of my favourite movies is Om Amira – the Egyptian short film about the woman who sells fried potato sandwiches on the corner of Tahrir Square, to make a living for her family.

My mentees can contact me 24/7, whether through Skype, WhatsApp or in person. I always tell them not to worry about the topic or the time of day. When I was a young girl, I couldn’t find a source for advice. But women need role models! In our ANA HUNNA female mentoring project, we try to compress all those years, sometimes decades, of our own struggles into a one-year program. Our vision is for every woman to be proactive in society and to pursue her goals, regardless of her field of work. And my biggest wish is, that our current mentees will carry on this message to all their peers – and to the next generation.

In Jordan, we have made great progress when it comes to women in the labour force. But there are still many challenges to overcome. Many students are not aware of women’s rights and the cultural framework can pose additional obstacles for girls. Moreover, once they have successfully entered the workforce, they face the double burden of managing a household and a fulltime job. As women, we have yet to engage in a conversation about the private sphere. We need a change of mind-set and to equally distribute household responsibilities between men and women. To me, “gender is not a definition, it’s a mission!”

Dima Karadsheh is a Gender and Protection Advisor and a mentor for the ANA HUNNA female mentoring project. She is also a founding member of the the ANA HUNNA Alliance in Jordan, with which she hopes to continue the project and its many positive impacts.

©Claudia WIens