Director’s Update: February 2017

In February, we welcomed Sarah Martin who brings over 19 years of experience in research, advocacy, training and project management with international organizations around the world. She specializes in strengthening gender-based violence (GBV) prevention and response in humanitarian settings.

Sarah has worked for a variety of positions and organizations including Initiatives Director for Women and Children’s Protection in the European Refugee Crisis for the International Rescue Committee, the Global Protection Cluster’s Regional GBV Advisor for Asia and the Pacific, Senior Gender Capacity Advisor for UNHCR, Humanitarian Affairs Specialist for Médecins Sans Frontières– Holland (MSF), and Humanitarian Advocate for Refugees International, a US-based advocacy organization.

Sarah is the author of several reports including the Current State of GBV Response Capacity in Emergencies, Core Competencies for GBV in Emergencies Program Managers and Coordinators, Ending Sexual Violence in Darfur: An Advocacy Agenda, and Must Boys be Boys? Ending Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by UN Peacekeepers. Her work on sexual abuse in UN peacekeeping led to her being recognized as “Glamour Magazine’s Hero of the Month” for June 2006. Sarah is here as an expert trainer for our Gender in Development and Humanitarian Assistance (GDHA) Diploma. Check it out, join us, and benefit from Sarah’s expertise – and amazing anecdotes!

As you must all know by now, our monthly student-focused speaking series Food 4 Thought addresses a range of gender issues – often on topics that we might think have nothing to do with gender at all! As a great example, this month, we invited Ziad Abichaker, CEO of Cedar Environmental, to talk about the environment. What’s the link to gender issues?! Stronger than you think!

We know that environmental changes affect everyone, but men and women use resources differently and have different roles in society. At the same time, women (and girls) are traditionally responsible for growing food, collecting water, and other aspects involving natural resources. This makes women more likely to be impacted by environmental hardships like droughts, storms, deforestation. And women are the primary carers when family members are sick due to environmental hazards. Women are not only victims of climate change and environmental degradation – they have traditional and contemporary knowledge of the natural world around them. As such, women are playing important roles as agents of change in protecting the environment. As social change actors, we need to pay attention to the disparities between women and men in access to environmental resources. With the right tools and support, women are a driving force for a new model of growth which is both more equitable and sustainable. Social movements like ecofeminism - the connection of the environmental and feminist movements – are a critical to advancing these ideas. In fact – renowned economist Amartya Sen famously said that “Advancing gender equality may be one of the best ways of saving the environment…”. So there you go! Ziad reminded us to recycle – and has made it easy for all of us to do so. Check out his documentary A Zero Waste Lebanon and get involved! We can’t afford NOT to!

Meanwhile, our team member Tala attended a consultation meeting on counter-terrorism financing and how this impacts women’s rights and gender equality. The meeting was organized by Women Peacemakers Program (WPP) and ABAAD, building on research by WPP and the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) of Duke. Experts convened from throughout the Arab region to map key challenges and identify strategies to work for women’s rights and peace.

For another perspective on women’s rights and peace, IWSAW launched a project to build the capacity of law enforcement personnel to identify, prevent and respond appropriately to gender-based violence (GBV), and to increase gender awareness and equality within the security sector itself. This builds on IWSAW’s decades of experience in working with incarcerated women in Lebanese prisons, and previous training projects focusing on human rights, gender and GBV within the Lebanese detention system. Theoretical and practical trainings will include case studies, role plays, and on-site discussions, along with other tools to engage our security sector allies. Keep an eye out for a report at the end of the project as well as discussions to share lessons learned and agree on the way forward. Stay tuned!

Bring on spring!