Gender roles: worth the time off cooking?

By Razan Sharia
Photography by Cesilia Faustina
Bayan is a local of the city of Madaba in Jordan. She started her own women empowerment community-based project called Leen Community.

Challenging today’s gendered notions the young 26-year-old Bayan Al Hanini reached out to create her own community for her own personalized project of handicrafts. Not until graduating from her BA of Business administration had she been able to figure out more about herself; her purpose. Her ending was not to become an interior designer but the beginning; the beginning of her new self.

Bayan, the creative director of the community has had some goals in mind; to empower women working in such fields and to cut violence against women. Hence, she has offered women of our society’s time for talk sessions for them to reflect upon their own experiences, and speak up for themselves.

This notion of women empowerment has been a long-running global topic that needs more effort within society, as the UN secretary general wrote in one of his published Jordan Times articles, “Thanks to outdated attitudes and entrenched male chauvinism.” He had also mentioned that efforts put to reduce the employment gap between genders would increase the global GDP with an addition of $12 trillion by 2025.

 “I started looking for my own dream, searching for myself, and what I need to know more about life,”

Encouraged by her current society, she was inspired to improve women’s rights and education within her community

She has finally figured out that Interior design was what she was made for. Bayan started out with three ladies from Madaba that have worked with handicrafts on a daily basis as a hobby of theirs. Pairing up together, their main concern was to just start up by marketing their products using the many viral social media platforms. They have even put the efforts to hire one person to deliver their online products. Hence, she was able to create her own voice from her new work community.

Every project grows out of a seed and Bayan’s was pretty relatable. She had come across one of the ladies from Madaba to ask her about the handicraft piece she was working on. Curious to know about the lady’s time and budget scheme, she was shocked to hear that this piece took the lady two whole weeks to earn 20 JDs only when it deserved 300 JDs. That was when Bayan felt a sting dragging her towards a start, a change, an impact.

“I felt like it was unfair!”

Being an arts and culture lover, she had looked for a project that can bring her both profit and an impact. She felt attached to the needs of Jordan’s society – more specifically women’s needs.

Afterwards, Bayan considered taking courses to educate herself more in the field of business competition – that was in 2014. In 2015, she travelled to Greece, where her idea of the project itself became clearer. Finally, in 2016, she succeeded in participating in a competition and winning.

Bayan became more determined to start her own business after having experienced some success along the way.

“That was when I knew that I can just start,”

Due to the high cost of production in Amman, Jordan, Bayan and her partners have decided to create their own personal website to exhibit their handmade work. A photographer was also hired by them to have him exhibit the best quality out of their products’ pictures. However, it was taking them a load of time and effort to establish what they wanted.

It is indeed not only a Middle Eastern kind of issue but a global one. Living in a society with the misogynistic kind of aesthetic women suffer in trying to just find themselves.

 “These women came from villages,” she said.

“I wanted to mix them with people that come from just everywhere.”

Bayan’s dream was to empower every woman she comes across during her work on the project. She wanted to delete the gender notions she has long lived with in a society like ours.

“A woman has power, can talk, can get money, and can convey her opinion,” She said.

“Oppressing women of our society will only let our society die.”  

Sick of the way women were treated in the society, Bayan wanted to increase empowerment skills towards her surrounding community.

Bayan has reflected upon being sick with the societal constraints that women living in Jordan are abided to. She has even mentioned how husbands often refuse the idea of having their wives work for long shifts out of the house.

The UN secretary general had also stated that tradition, culture, and religious values are nowadays being misused to halt women’s rights. In fact, they are being used to promote sexism and enrich our societal misogynistic mentalities.

“It will take time from cooking,” Mentioned Bayan, trying to rephrase the way some husbands would react to having their wives be committed to anything out of the walls of their house.

This is the stereotype Bayan has suffered from, and her project is living on hope to change it, in any way possible. She wants to refine the idea that women aren’t only created for a house, a child, and a husband but also for their own society. They were born to trigger change. In fact, in her very own project, she aimed to trigger both – economic and social change for the future of our Jordan.

Having asked Bayan about a personal challenge she has encountered during her hard years of dedicating time for such project, she has answered mentioning the year of 2011.  At that time, Bayan had to work simultaneously – doing both her job and working on this project alongside the other ladies from Madaba. Nonetheless, she has mentioned lots of difficulties she faces that are tightly tied to her very rural background.  “No money, no car, no time, no societal support as well,” Bayan shared.

“No money, no car, no time, no societal support as well,” Bayan shared.

Despite the many difficulties, she hasn’t given up and has mentioned that as long as she’s surrounded by her friends that will be her only way to make it out of the difficulties.

“I have good friends and that’s the only way,” Bayan confidently ended.  

Bayan is confident in the power that women have.

One other thing Bayan passionately believes in is that a woman by herself is a complete world on her own. She said she had faith in the power a woman already has, and the impact she may hold on society.

As stated by the Jordan Times’ article Working to promote gender equality, women’s empowerment, central to the achievement of all the 17 Sustainable development goals is to first achieve gender equality. Hence, in the long run, this will increase the chances of attaining our sustainable global peace and decrease chances of sexual exploitation and abuse.

“A woman has power,” Bayan emphasized and repeated.

“A woman has power.”


Bayan Al Hanini is a Jordanian local from the city of Madaba. Having grown up in a society where women were highly discriminated, she decided to start her own community project called Leen Community which empowers local village women to create handicrafts that will then be sold. She also creates a space for women to talk and share occupational skills.

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