December 2020 Updates
2020 was a year full of challenges. Despite all the difficulties - from the COVID-19 pandemic, to the economic crises in Lebanon and the Beirut Blast – our activism persevered! Women and girls are at the top of our agenda, no matter what.
Challenges aside, the work continues! The AiW was awarded a grant to counter the patriarchal backlash and reclaim gender justice – a serious problem in a region suffocated by patriarchy! We also were awarded another grant to strengthen the Arab regional capacity to collect data on violence against women. Collecting data is not just about numbers – it is about programs, advocacy, resources, and ultimately about preventing violence and protecting women!
The Institute, in collaboration with LAU’s Continuing Education, was awarded yet another grant to develop courses focused on Women, Peace, and Security that make up part of the Gender in Development and Humanitarian Assistance (GDHA) certificate. WPS continues to be a key area of our work, and we’ve done years of advocacy to ensure that there is no P and no S without the W!
To wrap up 2020, we held our annual art competition in collaboration with UN ESCWA. On December 10, International Human Rights Day, we held a panel discussion that included incredible strong women from the Arab region sharing their personal experience and activism in times of conflicts and disasters. Alaa Salah, Asma Khalifa, Gabriella Nassif, and Maya El Ammar discussed the implications of disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic on women in the Arab region but they also shared messages of hope and ways forward to fight inequalities in the region. Hope, activism, and solidarity are the key ingredients to achieve the change we seek! The panel concluded by announcing the winners of the competition and showcasing the amazing work submitted by young people from the Arab region. To know more about the event, check out this link. And prepare your art for next year’s event!
Our Food 4 Thought for December focused on gender discrimination, looking at the legal, political and economic implications of this persisting problem. Outstanding activists Stephanie Chaban, Farah Kobeissy, Zoya Rouhanna, and Halime Kaakour discussed the low representation of women in the labor force and in politics and the barriers they face. Personal status laws in Lebanon are always part of this discussion because they subject women to double discrimination, only undone with a unified Lebanese civil law. One day… inshallah!
The AiW also launched a new project that aims to enhance the capacities of female activists, human rights advocates, media professionals, and bloggers working on gender issues in the Arab region, and specifically in Lebanon. This initiative, in collaboration with the Arab Institute for Human Rights and funded by the Embassy of Canada in Lebanon, is a one-year project that entails conducting two regional online training courses. We encourage all CSOs to nominate young active members to apply for this training before January 31, 2021! To know more about the training check out this link.
And finally, ending on a high note with another victory for women’s rights activists in Lebanon! After ages of feminist advocacy, parliament finally passed a law that criminalizes sexual harassment giving it a broad definition including verbal and cyber harassment. The law also provides women with protection from harassment at work, institutions, and on transportation services.
We’ve been highlighting this for ages – check out Issues 111-112 | Al-Raida Journal that addresses the status of women in the Lebanese legislation and this article “Seeking Justice for Physical and Sexual Violence against Women in Lebanese Society | Al-Raida Journal”.
But does this new law mean that women can work and move safely now? Not exactly. Given the patriarchal system, the power dynamics, and the social norms, it is still not easy for women to report directly – other obstacles like the economic burden, the absence of a protection system, and a safe community remain to be addressed. Nevertheless, it is a critical step forward. And we’re not going back!
Looking forward to further victories in 2021!