Women’s legal empowerment

Breaking the cycle

In this section

Generational change through women’s legal empowerment

Without your help, I would have stayed in prison for the rest of my life – Haifa, beneficiary

In over 13 years of legal aid work, with women representing approximately %70 of its beneficiaries, JCLA holds the certainty that the legal needs of women are still largely unmet in Jordan. Women are generally reluctant to seek a lawyer’s assistance due to cultural stigma and social norms. This is compounded by their economic vulnerability, lack of financial independence and means to afford a lawyer, in a country where female unemployment is nearly %33. The Jordanian legal system, whose primary objective is to preserve the unity of the family rather than the wellbeing of its individuals, strongly pressures women into reconciling with aggressors and prevents them from taking action. Scarce knowledge of the law and fear of the justice system are additional factors driving women to avoid addressing their grievances and waive their rights. This feeds into a generational cycle of discrimination and marginalization, where women of all ages and nationalities across the country are the ultimate victims.


Without legal empowerment, women are more vulnerable to violence and discrimination. In the case of Haifa, she spent 15 days in administrative detention for refusing to move back to her father’s house after the death of her husband. In Jordan, social and cultural norms dictate for women to live under the roof of their male guardian at all times (father, husband, brother, etc.). When Haifa complained to the Family Protection Unit that her father was threatening to take her back by force, she was placed in jail “for her own protection”. It was not until the intervention of JCLA legal aid team, who knew about her case by chance, that she could regain her freedom. Had she stayed longer, she would have likely lost her job, her house and custody of her children, not to mention the severe psychological trauma caused by the experience. This begs the question: how many women are unable to reach the help they need and are still living in a situation of abuse, rights deprivation or discrimination?


Between 2020-2018, JCLA assisted approximately 13,500 women through legal consultations and in-court representations, including %74 Jordanian and %19 Syrian. Although their cases are not always as sensational as Haifa’s, it would be simplistic to assume that they do not hold as much importance and impact for each one of them. In JCLA’s experience, the large majority of legal issues encountered by women are connected to family problems. %38 of women beneficiaries between 2020-2018 sought assistance to file alimony claims and %24 asked for help to obtain a divorce. Through its awareness-raising activities, JCLA reached approximately 34,500 women between %27 .2020-2018 of them received legal information on protection from cybercrimes (blackmailing and threats by exposing private pictures, messages, etc.), and %14, around 5,000, requested to attend sessions on protection from domestic violence. This highlights a widespread trend, indicating that women are often victims of abuse and discrimination within their close circles and families.

It is not just about the numbers: it is all about the impact

While numbers play a major role in monitoring the extent of work efforts, they can only provide a limited picture of the real impact and long-term change affecting the lives of many individuals.


Through the work of JCLA, every day, an abused woman receives the tools to overcome violence. A mother deprived of her children for years becomes able to cuddle them to sleep. A girl set out to being removed from school and married off at a young age is given the opportunity to continue her education. A mistreated employee can go to work unafraid, able to legally protect herself from harassment and discrimination in the work environment.


At JCLA, we have influenced the lives of thousands of women by designing, building and promoting a lifestyle that enables women to deal with their legal problems. In a world that reinforces the fear of male authority in decision-making environments, with 75% judges in civil and administrative courts and 100% in Sharia courts, JCLA helps women break the barrier of fear towards legal and court proceedings.


“I felt so strong while I was standing before the judge on my own, presenting my case. When he told me that I managed to get such a favorable verdict, that many lawyers could not have obtained, I felt even more empowered and grateful to JCLA. Because that girl who was deprived of her education and abused for years would not have been able to achieve this success, had I not knocked on JCLA’s door”.

Nisreen was married off at the age of 15 and was subjected to all forms of violence by her husband, who not only deprived her of her education, but also completely isolated her from her family. Nisreen and her three children suffered from constant abuse without any support from her family, not any source of income other than her husband’s. JCLA was able to divorce Nisreen from her abusive husband and place her children into her custody. After JCLA’s help, Nisreen felt strong enough to argue her dower case on her own, obtaining an extremely successful verdict.


“Today I have a job and I can financially sustain myself and my children”.

Like Nisreen, 85% of the surveyed women whom JCLA represented in court state that JCLA’s intervention had a positive impact in their lives, whether on a social, psychological or economic level. Strong of this knowledge, JCLA relentlessly continues to provide its services, to build a society where women are unafraid to let their voices be heard and have the power to take action and claim their rights. Women’s legal empowerment contributes to breaking the cycle of abuse, impacting the women of today and the generations to come.


“Every day, I go to work knowing that I will play a role in changing many people’s lives” – Mahmoud Moghrabi, Legal Aid Unit Director

Together, we help shape justice

At JCLA, we believe that real change cannot be achieved by any organization alone. For this reason, JCLA has been working together with its partners in civil society for more than ten years, not only by leveraging its network when leading access to justice campaigns, but also offering its expertise to strengthen civil society efforts from a legal perspective.


When it comes to women’s empowerment, civil society plays an active role in Jordan, and JCLA proudly engages in movements and activities aimed at achieving social justice. Among its several collaborations, JCLA participated in Ruwwad’s campaigns to end violence against women. JCLA’s team would complement Ruwwad’s community mobilization by offering legal awareness sessions on protection from domestic violence, as well as legal aid services for women in need. JCLA also played a key role in the 2020 nationwide teachers’ campaign (قم مع المعلم), mainly led by female teachers who demanded better work conditions. JCLA actively disseminated information on the labor law and teachers’ rights, in addition to mobilizing its lawyers through its detention hotline to bail out any teacher arrested for participating in public demonstrations. JCLA also supports its partners through research analysis and studies. In the joint effort to combat early/child marriage among Syrian refugees and host communities with Save the Children, JCLA is conducting an analysis of legal practices among judges, to determine the root causes of the problem and address it strategically.


An excellent team player, JCLA is the legal expert of those who want to create change. By leveraging its resources, JCLA supports other civil society actors, in the joint effort to achieve women’s empowerment.

Placing people’s needs at the top of the policy agenda

The engagement and participation of government and public institutions is paramount to the accomplishment of long-term sustainable change. For this reason, JCLA has built strong partnerships with several stakeholders to achieve the establishment of a legal system that is effective, inclusive and accountable towards vulnerable groups.


Access to justice is integral to women enjoying their rights in all aspects, whether in relation to surviving GBV, reaching economic empowerment, or claiming marital rights. JCLA continuously engages with national institutions in the effort to promote women’s access to justice by producing policy papers, proposing amendments to legislations, denouncing discriminatory practices and building the capacity of public officials. Among others, we recall JCLA’s contribution on insolvency proceedings in Jordan, tackling the problem of women sentenced to imprisonment for being unable to pay debts or for sponsoring debtors (usually male relatives). Another contribution concerns the legal status of abandoned women, who are neither married nor divorced and cannot benefit from the rights enjoyed under either of these legal statuses. Based on the findings, JCLA reached out to official and unofficial bodies and gained their commitment to offer services to abandoned women.


Through its work, JCLA is able to conduct in-depth documentation of women’s challenges in accessing the justice system, allowing for contextualized and concrete recommendations. These include recommendations to justice stakeholders on making Sharia courts women-friendly, considering that courts have few to no female staff, and are not equipped to receive children, whom mothers are often forced to carry along.


In the context of changing harmful processes, JCLA actively argues against the current APB practices, which allow for male guardians to report a missing woman to the police and have her returned home. This is especially common in the case of abused women suffering GBV, who run away from home.


Further, JCLA seeks to strengthen the capacity of government officials: JCLA regularly holds trainings for the Family Protection Unit on best legal practices for abused women. Moreover, JCLA engages with authorities such as officers of the Women’s Police, specifically to inform them on best practices for women in detention, with the aim to eradicate torture and any kind of ill-treatment in prisons.


A women’s rights defender, JCLA shares its knowledge and expertise with decision-makers at the national level in order to achieve a society where vulnerable women are protected, supported and empowered.