Having dreams meant that she could not stay in one place. Tala Khrais is an agri-environmental specialist who felt that there was a need to empower Jordanian women in rural and agricultural areas and to help them create their opportunities. She believes that women, no matter where they are from and what circumstances they were born in, deserve the chance to prove what they are capable of doing. Beyond agriculture and environment protection, Tala has a passion for project management which helped her see beyond the problems to come up with solutions.
Tala believes she is privileged to be brought up in a family that nourished her thoughts and decisions. Her family believed in equal rights among boys and girls and that no one is less than the other. She acknowledges the fact that the older generation has a different idea of what a woman should do and what her roles are, but not her parents. When Tala decided to go into empowering women, she was supported by her family and her surroundings because they were also aware of the rooted patriarchal problems that categorize women as housewives and mothers but not as capable coworkers too.
Tala obtained her undergraduate and graduate degrees from McGill in Canada, one of the top universities worldwide. Despite the path that she chose, she felt that her peers were more advantaged when they graduated. After graduating, she had to return to Jordan to find a job and start her career. Tala noticed that her peers in Canada were advised by the government to go into specific fields or companies post-graduation based on their qualifications and skills. When she returned to Jordan, she found it difficult to find a job, especially since she received little or no guidance on what would suit her in the existing work environments.
From her work with different governmental and non-governmental facilities, Tala notes that the unemployment rates in Jordan are currently high and the number of unemployed women is high too. She believes that there should be a governmental entity in Jordan that scans and evaluates the skills of women to be able to find the right job. Additionally, she realizes that a key problem that limits women from working in Jordan is transportation. Tala states that she was privileged to have a car that helped her safely commute to different locations in her different work experiences. However, she acknowledges that not many women have this luxury and would have to commute to reach projects outside Amman using public transportation that is rather not reliable.
The pandemic has changed our lives. Tala notes that the pandemic has caused many women to leave their jobs to stay at home with their children. Shuffling between the closure of schools or nurseries and having to work remotely or from the office, she had seen women who had to choose between their jobs and their families, the latter being of most importance. Tala recommends opening smaller daycares at workplaces so that working mothers can feel safe and not worry about having to leave early to pick up their children or drop them off in the morning. This sense of security could lead to having more efficient workers and would help young women become stronger as they try to start a family.
Tala is a free-spirited individual who is eager to broaden her experience and knowledge in her field of technical skill, as well as relevant topics such as rural development, women’s empowerment, and civic engagement. This spirit drove her to go from one national project role to the next. Her way of thinking showed her the importance of project management and how she finds herself able to shift fit into various positions. Because women are not always provided with the opportunity to be promoted to a high position, Tala finds it to be a glass ceiling that she cannot break unless she changes her path. It has happened to her before in one of the projects that she worked on where she found that she could not proceed, so she took a break, developed her skills by taking some extra courses, and then went to find other opportunities. Tala is now directing a $5 million project in Jordan called “women empowerment for leadership roles,” which is financed by Global Affairs Canada and implemented by an international non-profit.
Tala advises girls to be both resilient and patient. She tells girls that they will often be uncomfortable in certain situations where they will not find a friend to get along with. She states that in those situations, girls should learn to be patient to be able to learn how to deal with people. Young women will have a rosy idea of a career where they can express all of their leanings and education while earning excellent income when they graduate from university, but this is not the reality.
Schools play an important role in the upbringing of a girl. Tala suggests that schools should shed the light on role models that girls can see as an example. She recommends sharing the stories of successful women who created a change in society, in their fields, and in their homes. She gives examples of sharing stories of successful doctors, engineers, members of parliaments, or teachers that young girls can look up to. Schools should also be able to teach girls how to balance their personal and professional lives since motherhood is sacred and having a job is needed in today’s world. Tala also suggests that schools focus on children’s talents. She believes that once talent is acknowledged, it will help shape boys’ and girls’ personalities and orientations toward what they would want to achieve in life. By doing this, Tala says, these future members of the society will learn how to be unique and how to stand out instead of living their lives trying to replicate someone else.
This story was written by Tamara Sleiman