Ra’edah has an unusual keychain, especially for a Jordanian woman. Among the keys is a miniature adjustable crescent wrench. She carries it as a sign of her chosen profession – plumbing.
Her entry into the field started as a joke, she says, but quickly grew more serious when she realised that her enjoyment of “fixing things around the house” could fill a legitimate need in her country.
“In our culture, it is not easy to let men plumbers enter the house, especially when our husbands are not around,” she says, adding that husbands are usually at work when plumbers – traditionally always male – make house calls.
So Ra’edah, who has a university education and worked as a teacher before starting her family, took a classroom training course. Then she began an apprenticeship with a male plumber in Zarqa, Jordan, where she lives and works today, under 30 km (18 miles) from the capital city of Amman. Gradually, she did more of the work on her own, and impressed her trainer with how capable she was.
A growing business
Once on her own, she started building a business, and eventually began training others. “People started to know about my work and asked for help,” she says. “I also distributed brochures and magnetic cards to market what I do.”
Ra’edah is clearly naturally very business-minded. But this has been enhanced by a CARE-sponsored course on small business development. CARE also helped her secure a grant to buy new tools and equipment. Her six children are very proud of her, she says.
“They used to share my Facebook page with everyone and told their friends about what I do and that I can help them in anything,” Ra’edah says. “The main message I want to share with all women out there is that your future is in your hands, not your husband. I always tell my daughters: the most important thing is to be financially independent. Rely on yourself and be diligent about it. Even if you are a housewife, life circumstances may change, and it requires your participation to support yourself and him.”
As well as breaking down stereotypes, Ra’edah has also turned heads.
“Once, when the house owner and her husband saw me fixing the bathroom, it was such a big event for them,” she recalls. “I noticed them observing me all the time. Her husband was telling his wife how great I was and how impressed he was. I became a role model for other women. Even the kids observed me while I was working. It was a shocking for them. In our culture, this job is only for men.”
“One day I got in a taxi and told him I work as a plumber; he told me you are Ra’adeh, right? I told him, yes,” she recalls, laughing. “I thought that my reputation preceded me.”
Along the way, Ra’edah ran into a number of homes with long-deferred plumbing issues, simply because, for a long time, it had been impossible for a male plumber to visit during the day. She also encountered a great deal of skepticism.
“I received so many comments like: ‘Is it possible that you do plumbing? Is it possible that you can fix things?’ I tell them: ‘Yes, I can.’ Why can’t I fix it? What is the obstacle? I am well-trained in plumbing, and only real experience provides you with the proof you need. Give me something to fix, and you will see the result with your own eyes.”
Ra-edah's final words?
If you love what you do, you can always succeed.”
Images © CARE/Kate Adelung