Jordan, with a population of 7.6 million and GDP US$37.5 billion, has an unemployment rate of 13.2%. One substantial obstacle for finding a good job is the mismatch between requirements of the job and qualifications of applicants. Youth constitute 14% of the total population and 21.5% of the working-age population. The gender wage gap is up to 20% in the public sector where 82% of women are working. Jordan has the second highest average of educational attainment (10 school years) compared to other Arab countries. Participation of youth in civil society seems to be low as less than 9% of Jordanian youth had volunteered in an organization in 2014.
Based on the concept of social solidarity, Ezwitti restaurant in Amman creates a space for people -who do not know each other- to invite each other over a decent meal. Ezwitti in the Jordanian dialect means “support and the place where the person belongs”. The initiative is non-profit and self-sustained, run by university students, and depends on volunteerism by youth. People who cannot afford to eat on a certain day could come to Ezwitti and pick an invitation card posted on the wall of invitations to claim a sandwich or a meal of their choice. This includes vulnerable groups and refugees.
Implementation of programme/ initiative:
Ezwitti is an initiative created by Mahmoud Nabulsi, a senior team leader in West Asia and North Africa Institute (WANA). The initiative aims at achieving the value of social solidarity and economic interdependence through:
- Providing a space for young people to volunteer and develop their social solidarity values
- Encouraging youth entrepreneurship while also promoting social solidarity values
- Empowering women economically through the provision of income-generating activities (the restaurant relies 100% on the work of women workers/cooks)
- Motivate people, especially youth to think about others, give others and feed others
- Spread the motto of the initiative “You have enough bread but not enough for all the people”
The initiative has been applauded by both government and civil society institutions. However, no official support has been extended to encourage further or fund this initiative. The success of the initiative depends solely on the high level of youth activism and commitment. As most of the volunteers are students, it becomes sometimes difficult for them to manage both their work at the restaurant and their university schedules.
This is the third year of the restaurant which has become now based 100% on volunteerism. There are currently 12 committed volunteers. On a weekly basis, the restaurant caters for more than a hundred inviter and invitee. The initiative explains to children about social solidarity, economic interdependence and the importance of participation. Finally, the restaurant revived the stairway leading to it in downtown Amman.
There are many factors that contributed to the success of the Ezwitti. First, the inviters are encouraged to put their names on the invitation so that it does not just resemble a donation, but adds a human factor to the invitation. There are other creative options implemented such as the birthday gift whereby the individual could invite someone and pay on his/her behalf to feed 10 other people, and the birthday notification is sent to the person celebrating. More importantly, the ingredients used are local and come from an association of women who prepare them at their homes in Ajran.
The members of the initiative intend to apply the same project across other cities in Jordan in order to support more local women, and encourage other sectors to implement it including pharmacies, grocery stores, and tailors. Currently, the initiative has been replicated by the clothing sector.
OECD Youth in the MENA region, 2016
World Bank, 2016
International Labor Organization, 2016
Report of the national workshop on enhancing youth participation in public issues and decision making in Jordan
Date: October 12, 2017