Since opening in 2013, a workers’ centre at the Al Hassan Industrial Zone in Jordan has quickly become an important part of many lives
For Malala, a 25-year-old garment factory machine operator, the workers’ centre at the Al Hassan Industrial Zone the centre gives her some much needed respite from the strains of working 13-hour shifts, six days a week.
I come here every Friday to dance and use the internet to speak to my family back home,” she says.
For Indika, a 29-year-old Sri Lankan, exercising daily at the centre’s gleaming new gym helps him shake off the stress of his work as a merchandise assistant.
I hardly move at all during the day, and when I do it’s just to visit the canteen or bathroom. But since the centre opened, all of this has changed. I used to feel tired all the time but now I feel so much better especially during the long working hours.
Lifting weights beside him is Poraush, a 27-year old security guard from India. He said he is trying to get in shape for his wedding day in November back in his home country.
Before the gym in the centre opened, I used to exercise in my dormitory, which was too crowded and lacked the proper equipment.
The Al Hassan Industrial Zone in Jordan is home to tens of thousands of garment factory workers, the majority of whom have immigrated from India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. Having these workers live and work in sprawling industrial park which they rarely venture outside of in the remote dusty outskirts of the northern city of Ramtha meant that there was a great need for leisure facilities.
The idea for the workers’ centre was originally developed by Better Work Jordan and supported by USAID, the Jordan Industrial Estates Corporation, the Irbid Chamber of Industry, apparel factories within the industrial zone, the General Trade Union for Garment and Textile Industries, Accessories & Textiles Exporters Association (JGate) and international brands.
The centre opens five evenings a week and all day on Friday. Workers from a number of nationalities playing cricket, doing yoga, queues of people waiting to use the Internet, art displays on the walls and parties celebrating national and religious events are just some of the common sights found.
As well as a computer room and gym, the simple but functional centre also has canteen, an outdoor sports area and classrooms offering English and IT lessons. The thousands of workers employed in the industrial zone also have access to legal advice, trade union support and soon will have access to mental health counseling.
‘’These workers are a long way from home. The centre has begun to make a huge difference in their lives by giving them a place to go for recreation, to improve their skills, and to seek help,” said Emily Hylton, the Workers’ Centre Liaison Officer.
“While Better Work Jordan has helped in the establishment of the Workers’ Centre, its long-term success will be determined by the degree to which the Centre is seen by workers as their Centre. So far, the Centre has gotten off to a good start in this regard,” said Phil Fishman, Programme Manager for Better Work Jordan.
A sustainability plan to make the Workers’ Centre self-sufficient over the next couple years has been developed. Better Work Jordan hopes the purpose-built facility will soon be able to sustain itself financially through worker membership fees and contributions from garment industry stakeholders, such as factories and brands. The long term sustainability of the centre will also be ensured by giving workers in the zone a hands-on role in managing the centre. The Al–Hassan centre is intended as a pilot project that, if successful, will be replicated in industrial zones across Jordan