Director’s Update: June 2016

May was a powerful month for social movements!

It started with Lebanon’s municipal elections and the unexpected rise of Beirut Madinati, a volunteer-led campaign to elect a municipal council of qualified, politically unaffiliated individuals – and an equal representation of females and males. While Beirut Madinati did not win, this self-proclaimed opportunity for change demonstrated to Lebanon that it is possible to have people-centered governance that prioritizes social justice, transparency, equality, and works for the public good. Madinati pioneered a movement in favor of community well-being and showed us all that collectively, we can do better!

Also this month, our awesome Assistant Director, Myriam Sfeir, attended the Women Deliver 2016 Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. Myriam received a scholarship - chosen out of more than 5000 applicants! Women Deliver’s conferences are the world’s largest global convenings to focus on the health, rights and well-being of girls and women. This conference brought together world leaders, advocates, policymakers, journalists, young people, researchers and leaders of the private sector and civil society to showcase what it means and how it works when women and girls become the focus of development efforts.

This event was also one of the first major global conferences following the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The conference addressed how to implement SDGs as they relate to girls and women, with a specific focus on health and the inter-connections with gender equality, education, environment, and economic empowerment. We believe that more Arab representation was needed at the conference and more panels geared towards the concerns of Arab women. However, we were delighted to have Myriam represent IWSAW at this critical global event!

The IWSAW team was on the move in May! Carol Khater, the driving force behind many critical IWSAW development projects, represented the Institute at the Regional Convening on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in the Middle East and North Africa as part of the GBV Global Initiative, managed by a consortium of organizations including the International Organization for Migration, Promundo-US and led by Vital Voices Global Partnership. This initiative is designed to ensure that GBV survivors have better access to services, protection and the justice they deserve. The Consortium is working to develop training materials to address GBV in the region and enhance coordination to create a holistic regional response. The meeting, held in Amman, Jordan, brought together expert service providers, NGOs, international organizations, prosecutors, judges, government officials, and other professionals from the region for multidisciplinary training and technical assistance. Carol shared some of the critical GBV projects we are currently working on. Click here for more!

To strengthen support for GBV prevention and response, I ran a training on behalf of ABAAD – Resource Center for Gender Equality in partnership with UNICEF on GBV case management, based on a national training curriculum that I authored on behalf of ABAAD and Lebanon’s Ministry of Social Affairs. This training curriculum is endorsed by ABAAD and IWSAW and other universities in Lebanon and will be published this year… stay tuned!

This month, I also participated in a webinar for Oxfam’s Regional Gender Justice Programme – calling for changes in attitudes and beliefs about gender power relations and for improved legislation and policies to secure the rights of women and girls. Both Oxfam and IWSAW believe that women’s collective action is one of the most important drivers of sustained improvements in women’s rights – and human rights overall. The inspiring webinar series was launched to highlight diverse perspectives and galvanize action towards this goal. I joined colleagues from KAFA - Enough Violence and Exploitation and Oxfam’s We Can campaign in Asia for the May webinar - Public Campaigning to End Violence Against Women and Girls: Best Practices and Ways Forward. Here’s the full thing: http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/blog/2016/04/public-influencing-to-end-violence-against-women-and-girls

We’re excited about yet another pioneering partnership – with the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) in Washington DC. Founded in 1976, ICRW is the world’s premier applied research institution focused on gender equality. ICRW works with partners worldwide to conduct empirical research, build capacity, and advocate for evidence-based, practical ways to improve policies and programs. ICRW has regional offices in Asia and Africa as well as diverse global staff including public health experts, demographers, economists, sociologists, policy analysts, lawyers, and subject matter experts in gender-based violence, harmful traditional practices, child protection, child rights, sexual and reproductive health, land and property rights, agriculture, and economic empowerment. Together IWSAW and ICRW are a great team!

Also in May, IWSAW organized yet another awesome Food 4 Thought discussion entitled “Women in Leadership…A New Tomorrow”. Our guest speaker, LAU trustee Cherilyn Murer, also founder, president and CEO of Murer Consultants talked about the challenges facing women in leadership. Murer shared anecdotes from her personal life with the audience and reflected on the obstacles women face while climbing the ladder of success. She also emphasized the important role men play in women’s professional development.

And now a call to action! Help us build a library for the women’s prison in Baabda. IWSAW has done a great deal of work supporting women in the Baabda Prison legally, socially, and economically. For our next effort, we are collaborating with LAU’s Dean of Students office to establish a small library for the women inmates. The project will entail painting two rooms and using part of this space to hang bookshelves and stock them with books in English and Arabic. To donate, send us your books to IWSAW offices in Beirut Campus or to the Dean of Students office in Byblos Campus.

Finally – don’t forget to apply for our MA program in Interdisciplinary Gender Studies! Applications close 15 July – and we’re accepting new students every day! What are you waiting for?!

And – a parting message from the Women Deliver Conference: “Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”

Happy summer!

Lina