A female face in a sea of mustaches and beards: We went looking to document women’s rights and found a street vendor selling bread in Amman.

women's rights
(All photos were taken in Amman, Jordan on February 14, 2019.)

By Masa Masri and Tara Tarawneh

When we chose the topic of women’s rights for our photo journal, we knew we wanted to document something that was closely related to Arab culture, something that couldn’t be found outside of our region.

Our photo journal is about a woman we met on the streets of Amman. She’s one of the only female street vendors selling kaak — bread covered with sesame seeds — that we have come across.

Our streets are heavily populated with vendors selling orange juice, grilled corn, tea, kastana (chestnuts), fruits, turmus, sha’ar banat (candy floss), miska (mastic gum) and kaak.  Most of these vendors are men. 

Seeing a female face in a sea of mustaches and beards was refreshing, so we stopped to talk to her. We wanted to hear what she had to say about the issue and what experiences she had to share with us.

We were surprised at how much she had to say, for to customers, these vendors are mere intermediaries between us and our tea. (She asked that we not use her name.)

Speaking to her and hearing her story made for an enlightening experience, and we were reminded of the importance of supporting women like her in our society.

She also reminded us of a book, entitled “Sit al Kul” (Everybody’s Lady), about a Palestinian fisherman who was the only female in the business and who faced many struggles and criticism because her gender didn’t “fit” her job.

Like the character in the book, our kaak lady took on a job that was expected to be for men.

(For more articles by students on women’s rights, click here.)

women's rights
Kaak vendors are not uncommon sights on the streets of Amman. Many street corners are occupied with large wooden trolleys, heaped with kaak — bread covered with sesame seeds. She, however, was the first female kaak vendor we had ever seen on the streets of Amman, so we knew we had to talk to her and try her kaak. (Photo by Tara Tarawneh)

women's rights
As we conversed, countless cars passed by, the drivers smiling, calling out her name and honking at her. She laughed and waved back. “They all know me,” she said to us. “I am very popular amongst the people living and working around here. I feed them almost everyday.” “.الكل بعرفني في هذه المنطقة، بطعميهم تقريبا كل يوم” More cars passed by, more fleeting greetings were exchanged, “They’re all wishing me a happy Valentine’s Day.” “.اليوم عيد الحب، كلهم عم بعيدوا علي” (Photo by Masa Masri)

women's rights
She was eager to tell us about her daughters’ education, explaining how she took up this job to be able to support their schooling. “I’m not ashamed of my job,” she said. “I do this so that my daughters can go to school, and they’re not ashamed of my job either.” (Photo by Masa Masri)

women's rights
Each of us asked for a falafel and kaak sandwich. When we asked her about the price, she refused to let us pay, yet we insisted. “We want to support amazing women like you.” To which she replied, “Just the fact that you stopped and talked to me and included me in your project about women in Jordan is enough support for me.” “بالنسبة لي، بس انكم وقفتوا و حكيتوا معي و حطيتوني في مشروعكم عن المرأة في الأردن هو دعم كافي لي” (Photo by Masa Masri)
women's rights
We enjoyed the sandwiches very much. (Photo by Tara Tarawneh)

Masa Masri is in her third year of high school at King’s Academy in Madaba, Jordan. She enjoys Language and Literature classes, as well as Art History. Outside of school, she enjoys tennis, photography and creating art. She is a member of a club that advocates for social justice in the Middle East.

 

 

Tara Tarawneh is in her third year of high school at King’s Academy in Madaba, Jordan.  She is deeply involved in the Humanities Department and enjoys English and Art History. In her free time, Tara likes to draw, take photos and visit art museums. Tara also enjoys meditating in nature.

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