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Challenge the Norms

Nick B

Meet Maryam Mutlaq.  At 41 years old, she has successfully become a licensed plumber and is currently transitioning from being a stay-at-home mom to a business owner.  Her business has a name, Challenge, a location picked out in a growing neighborhood, and a forward thinking strategy all lined up.  While all this is impressive in itself, the real feat comes from where she has done this, Zarqa, Jordan.


The world in which Mrs. Mutlaq lives makes it difficult for women to achieve what she has already done and what she hopes to do.  The traditional gender roles like men being the breadwinners are ingrained in the culture and are difficult to break free from.  Women only make up 14 percent of the labor force in Jordan and while there are female business owners and CEOs, they are few and far between.  The preacher at her local mosque adamantly stands by his stance that Islam has clear roles: men make the money while women take care of the kids.  He believes that plumbing is, “suitable only for men, not for women,” and that if women start working the world will suffer from “unemployment and moral corruption.”  Even her own children initially opposed her choice.  Her youngest begged her not to wear her green plumber’s work vest to parent-teacher’s conferences.  But this did not stop Mrs. Mutlaq.  She continues to carry her accomplishments with pride and is only gaining support.


Mrs. Mutlaq journey is not over, and there are more obstacles to overcome, but she’s an inspiration to those around her.  The daughter who was embarrassed of her mother’s choice now is proud and wants to one day work with her mother.  She is getting some work and receiving praise for her technical knowledge and performance.  Still aiming for a brighter future, Mrs. Mutlaq has applied for a grant from USAID to jumpstart her business and believes that even with all the difficulties to get to where she is today, it has all been worthwhile.


“This was the chance of a lifetime.  The way I look at life has changed.”


We at support everyone in the trade and wish Maryam Mutlaq the best moving forward.  If you would like to learn more about her story and people like her be sure to check out the Associated Press article (click here) and if you would like to learn about other real stories from around the industry check out our TradeLife series. (click here)

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