The situation of youth in the Levant sub-region is quite daunting. The youth unemployment rate seems to fluctuate around 12-14%, while youth participation in the labor market was only 25% in 2011. This could also be attributed to the large number of youth, especially girls and young women, between ages of 15-22 still in school. Jordan has one of the highest rates of educated women and the lowest participation rate in the labor market. FHI 360 and its partners organized the third symposium in the Youth, Gender & Employability Symposium series in Amman, Jordan to explore the major challenges in this sub-region for youth and try to find youth-driven solutions to these challenges.

The two-day symposium was attended by over 270 people the majority of whom were youth between the ages of 18 and 30 from all 12 governorates of Jordan. The symposium adopted a participatory methodology that focused on encouraging the youth to express their viewpoints, voice their concerns and suggest solutions from their own perspectives in a World Café setting. FHI 360 assembled two engaging panels comprised of local and international experts who inspired the audience with their presentations about youth, gender and employment. In addition, two young motivational speakers shared their success stories with the participants to inspire hope, perseverance and self-reliance.



Dr. Andrea M. Bertone
Director, Gender Department, FHI 360

Ms. Kim Hessler
GE Foundation


H.E. Prof. Nidal Al Katamine
Minister of Labor and Tourism, Jordan

Dr. Omar Razzaz
Chairperson, King Abdullah II Fund for Development


Reflections, Insights and Outlook on Employability Challenges, Missed Economic Opportunities for Youth, Particularly Women

Mr. Yousef Fanous
Chief Executive Officer, Pharmacy 1

Ms. Deema Bibi
Chief Executive Officer, INJAZ Jordan

Mr. Muin Khoury
Director, Strategies Research

H.E. Asma Khader
Secretary General, Jordanian National Commission for Women


Regional Perspective on Youth, Gender and Employability with a Focus on Jordan

Dr. Manar Al Moneef
Director of Government Relations, GE MENA and Turkey regions

Ms. Zamila Bunglawala
Fellow, Young Foundation, London, UK

Dr. Mary Kawar
Senior Employment Specialist, International Labor Organization

Youth Voices and Opinions from Across Jordan
A presentation by Leaders of Tomorrow

Defining and Prioritizing Employability Challenges, Missed Economic Opportunities for Youth, Particularly Women (Group Work)


Motivational Speakers

Mustafa Salameh & Dr. Muhannad al Azzeh

Paving the Way for Change: World Café Discussion

Discussion of Jordanian National Employment Strategy – Selected Projects

What We Learned

Based on the discussions from the symposium in Jordan, we identified the following challenges that youth face in the Levant in general, and Jordan in particular:

  • Family and social pressure on youth to choose their specialization in universities
  • Lack of an encouraging environment for entrepreneurial work
  • Gender-blind legislation hinders women's access to work (lack of social support for working women)
  • Lack of availability of child/day care services for working parents
  • Refugees take available jobs
  • Lack of vocational training counseling at schools
  • Prevalence of nepotism (wasta) discourages youth from pursuing professional goals
  • Limited awareness among families of different types of work available to youth
  • Cultural and traditional barriers facing women who want to enter the work force or who would want to re-enter the work force after having children
  • Unfriendly working environments for women
  • Preference for office work (especially in the public sector) than field work especially for women
  • Male/female interaction in the work place not encouraged or well-accepted
  • Inefficiency in using human resources in an office setting
  • Lack of transparency in hiring
  • Lack of experience in finding jobs
  • Applicants being picky about certain jobs/ "culture of shame" limits work opportunities
  • Lack of private sector support for youth entering the job market
  • Youth waiting for the ideal jobs and compromising on gaining experience
  • Geographic mismatch of jobs
  • Limited interpersonal and communication skills
  • Dependency culture for men
  • Lack of future planning among youth
  • Lack of English language proficiency
  • Lack of ethical behavior at work
  • Low value placed in volunteerism

Media Gallery


Andrea M. Bertone

Andrea M. BertoneAndrea M. Bertone, Ph.D. has 19 years of international development and related research experience on gender-based violence, anti- human trafficking, girls' education, gender integration and mainstreaming, women's empowerment and economic productivity, life skills, and HIV & AIDS. She has co-authored two girls' mentoring guides and authored several peer-reviewed articles on human trafficking. Currently, Dr. Bertone is Director for FHI 360's Gender Department where she provides strategic, programmatic and technical leadership. Dr. Bertone earned her doctorate in government and politics from the University of Maryland in 2008. 

Dr. Mary Kawar

Dr. Mary KawarDr. Mary Kawar holds the position of Senior Employment Specialist at the International Labour Organization (ILO) Headquarters in Geneva and in the Arab Regional Office in Beirut for the past 15 years. Her areas of work have focused primarily on issues related to employment policy, skills development, gender issues and youth employment. She had previously served as advisor to the Jordanian Minister of Labor. She has also worked at the Ministry of Planning in Jordan. Mary has authored several research papers and training manuals on employment, youth, and gender. She holds a PhD in Development Studies from the London School of Economics.

Dr. Muhanad Al Azzeh

Dr. Muhanad Al AzzehDr. Muhanad Al Azzeh was appointed by King Abdullah II as the youngest Senator in the present senate council in Jordan. Prior to this, Dr. Alazzeh has worked as a team leader for the Disability's rights component of the USAID Civil Society Program (CSP) in Jordan (2010-2013). He is a commissioned legal and human rights expert for the American Bar Association (ABA), WHO, the Arab League, the ministers of Social Affairs Offices in the Gulf Countries Council. He is a former Disabilities rights' rapporteur at the UN, CBM international organization and human watch. He is the VP of the Higher Council of Affairs of Disabled Persons and the President of the legal committee in the Higher Council of the Affairs of the Disabled Persons in Jordan. Dr. Alazzeh holds a PhD in criminal law with honor degree from the Faculty of Law at Alexandria University in Egypt and a High Diploma in good governance, public policy and democratization from the International Institute for Social Studies (ISS) in the Hague, Netherlands.

Dr. Omar Razzaz

Dr. Omar RazzazDr. Omar Razzaz is Chair of the Board of Trustees of the King Abdullah II Fund for Development and Chair of the Jordan Strategy Forum. Dr. Razzaz has led the national team responsible for the preparation of the National Employment Strategy in (2011-2012). He was the Director General of Jordan's Social Security Corporation (2006-2010). Prior to his return to Jordan, he served as Country Manager of the World Bank's Lebanon Country Office (2002-2006). His World Bank experience covers private sector development and infrastructure finance. His country experience includes Russia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Estonia, Belarus, Macedonia, South Africa, Cote d'Ivoire, Central Africa, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, Lebanon, and Jordan. Dr. Razzaz was Assistant Professor at MIT in the International Development Program and the Regional Planning Program. He holds a PhD from Harvard University in Planning with a Minor in Economics, and a post-Doctorate from the Harvard Law School.

Dr. Yousef Fanous

Dr. Yousef FanousDr. Yousef Fanous is Deputy CEO and Chief Operations Officer of Pharmacy1 and supervises the development and delivery of the company's products and services, ensuring quality performance, continued business growth, and excellent customer service. Prior to joining Pharmcy1, Dr. Fanous garnered invaluable experience working with some of the US's top pharmaceutical industries and was Chief Pharmacist and District Manager at Eckerd Drug Company in 1998 where he managed over 100 registered pharmacists in the Metro Atlanta district. In 2001, Dr. Fanous was Consultant Team Leader at United Pharmacy Services, a prominent pharmaceutical care provider. In 2004, he took the role of Managing Consultant for the daily operation of fifty nursing homes with over 4,000 residents, including cost management, drug inventory control, supplier relations, and human resources. Dr. Fanous holds a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Mercer University and a pre-Pharmacy degree from the University of Florida in the USA.

H.E. Asma Khader

H.E. Asma KhaderH.E. Asma Khader, a lawyer and human rights activist, is the President of "Sisterhood Is Global Institute/Jordan" SIGI/J and the Secretary General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women. She has been active in legal unions, served two terms as president of the Jordanian Women's Union and the Jordanian and Arab Lawyers' Unions. In 1998 she founded Mizan Law Group for Human Rights in Jordan and serves on the executive committee of the International Commission of Jurists. She was a founding member of the Arab Association for Human Rights and a member of the Board of the Jordanian National Centre for Human Rights. In October 2003, she was appointed minister without portfolio and spokesperson for the Jordanian Government. Ms. Khader served as minister in 2003 and 2004, then as Minister of Culture in 2004 and 2005. She graduated from the University of Damascus in Syria with a law degree in 1977.

H.E. Professor Nidal Katamine

H.E. Professor Nidal KatamineH.E. Professor Nidal Katamine, Minister of Labour and Minister of Transport, was born in Tafileh in 1961. Dr. Katamine obtained his Bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Birmingham in Britain in 1983. He obtained his Master's and his PhD in Traffic Engineering from the same university. He was a professor at the Faculty of Engineering at a number of universities in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. A member of the 16th Parliament representing Tafileh, Dr. Katamine also served as Dean of Scientific Research and Higher Studies at the Hashemite University. He is the founder of Bridge International for Academic Services and Ex-Dean of Graduate School of Scientific Research at the Hashemite University in Jordan. He is a Member of the Board of Directors, Co-Owner & Co-founder of Irbid Ahliyah University and Jadara University.

Dr. Manar Al-Moneef

Dr. Manar Al-MoneefDr. Manar Al-Moneef is the Director of Government Affairs and Policy for General Electric, GE in the Middle East responsible for leading the company strategy in the region, building GE's relationship with governments, advising GE across businesses on policy and regulatory issues and developing new "white space" business opportunities for GE. Prior to that, Dr. Al-Moneef was the Managing Director of Imagination Breakthrough in the Middle East region. She also held the positions of Director General of Health Care & Life Sciences at the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), and Director of Molecular Pathology & Genetics at King Abdulaziz Medical City, National Guard Hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Dr. Al-Moneef has a Doctoral degree in Molecular Oncology from Leicester Warwick University, UK and a Master's degree in Molecular Medicine form Cambridge University, UK. Dr. Al-Moneef boasts numerous publications in Molecular Medicine, health care and life science strategies.

Mostafa Salameh

Mostafa SalamehMostafa Salameh completed the "7 Summits Challenge" on November 16, 2012 becoming the first Jordanian to do so and one of 250 people in the world to have succeeded in conquering the highest peak on every continent. Mr. Salameh serves as an inspirational role model for youth in Jordan, working on raising awareness on cancer through patient activities and fundraising for King Hussein Cancer Center KHCC. In April 2013 he launched the "From the Lowest Point to the Highest Point for Cancer" initiative, leading 20 Jordanians safely up and down Everest. His dream continues to conquer the North and South Poles, becoming the first Jordanian and 1 in 30 people in the world who completed the "7 Summits" and both poles. Mr. Salameh holds a BA in Hotel Management from Hotel Management College, Amman and a BA in International Hospitality and Tourism Management from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh. He was knighted by King Abdullah of Jordan on October 6th 2008.

Deema Bibi

Deema BibiDeema Bibi is the CEO of INJAZ in Jordan. Prior to INJAZ, Ms. Bibi worked at the United Nations Development Fund for Women (2000-2005) as the ICT Program Manager. Before joining the UN, Ms. Bibi worked in the private sector (1991-2000), developing and managing several ICT projects with a focus on Phone Banking and E-commerce. Ms. Bibi sits on several boards, including the Development and Employment Fund, Eisenhower Fellows Association, Global Thinkers Forum (GTF), Tamweel, Jordan Micro Credit Company and Run Jordan. She is a founding member of the Arab Foundations Forum (AFF), a member of the Technical Committee of the Economic Empowerment program, and has served as a City Council member for the term 2007-2011. Ms. Bibi was awarded the Eisenhower Fellowship, the ASPEN Institute Fellowship, and the Synergos Senior Fellowship. She holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Digital Electronics and an MBA in International Business.

Zamila Bunglawala

Zamila BunglawalaZamila Bunglawala is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Manchester and Fellow at The Young Foundation.  Zamila is the Principal Co-coordinator and co-designer of the Knowledge Exchange Trials program which focuses on bridging the knowledge exchange divide between academics and policy professionals. She is also Program Designer of the 'Inspiring Aspirations' and 'Empowering Entrepreneurs' programs which focus on career and entrepreneurship development for young people in the GCC and MENA regions. Zamila is a recent former Visiting Fellow of the Brookings Institute, Doha Center where she led research and analysis of the employment and entrepreneurship aspirations of young people in the GCC and MENA regions, and the Knowledge Economy capability of Qatar.  Her experience covers a broad range of public policy issues and she has published widely, having worked previously for the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit, Cabinet Office, United Nations, Open Society and the World Bank.

Kimberly Hessler

Kimberly HesslerKimberly Hessler served as Director of Sustainability for GE. In her role, Ms. Hessler was responsible for a GE Foundation portfolio focused on public policy, rule of law, economic equality, youth employability, human rights and the environment. Ms. Hessler ensured that GE continues its strong connection with a wide range of stakeholders including SRI's, academics, and NGO's such as UN Global Compact, and the Institute for Business and Human Rights, regarding GE's efforts to positively influence key sustainability challenges. Ms. Hessler served as a member of the Human Resources Development team and as a Human Resources Manager to the senior executive human resources leaders at GE Corporate. Ms. Hessler also held a number of roles in the human resources arena within GE, focusing on key areas such as data privacy, labor practices and human rights. Ms. Hessler has also held key roles in other Fortune 500 companies such as Citigroup, Deloitte and Touche, and AON-Diversified.