Director’s Update: June 2017

Summer is upon us! And once again, we’ve been busy!

Our Assistant Director Myriam Sfeir was in London to participate in an expert panel discussion on ‘Gender, Conflict and Fragility in the Middle East and North Africa’ hosted by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office in partnership with Oxfam and International Alert

Myriam also attended a thematic discussion at LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security (UK), which hosted several members of academic centers whose work is dedicated to gender, women, peace and security. The meeting brought together the PRIO Centre on Gender, Peace and Security (Norway), the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (USA), the Monash Gender, Peace and Security (Australia) as well as IWSAW. This is a continuation of the work IWSAW has been doing to advance discussions on women, peace, and security in the region in light of the prevalent political and social upheavals as well as the ongoing wars. Discussing the impact of conflict on gender is a must to understanding how conflict has stalled the realization of gender justice, and how the inclusion of women in peace processes is vital for establishing sustainable peace.

IWSAW was also represented at the launch of the Treatment and Outreach Program for Eating Disorders lead by the AUBMC Psychiatry Department. Eating disorders are a global issue affecting women far more than men because of socio-cultural expectations of women’s beauty. This pressure to conform results in psychological trauma for failing to fit into illusions of perfection. Women and girls who have experienced sexual traumas also have a high tendency to develop anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

IWSAW superstars Carol Khater and Moufeeda Haidar attended the release of the third report of the  National Strategy for Women in Lebanon Action Plan (2011-2021) by National Coalition for Lebanese Women (NCLW) in cooperation with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Dr. Marguerite Helou, the author of the report, discussed progress along the 12 areas of intervention, including legislation, laws, education, and so on. This Action Plan is critical because it serves as a roadmap for those who are committed to achieving gender equality and women’s rights in Lebanon – and also serves as an accountability tool to ensure action!

For those who didn’t catch the performance ‘No Demand No Supply’ organized by IWSAW in partnership with the American University of Beirut (AUB)Theater Initiative,  this powerful performance shed light on  the harrowing ordeal of the survivors of the Chez Maurice “torture chambers” where a group of Syrian women were trafficked, tricked into prostitution, raped and tortured. This month, Imad El Rihawi, manager of the Chez Maurice trafficking ring, was released from jail, after being captured in April 2016. We are angered at the system that fails to prevent such incidents and fails to protect women.

To add to our anger, this month women in Lebanon were once again denied access to politics: the quota to increase women’s representation in Parliament was rejected. Women are severely under-represented in politics. Although women represent 60% of the total number of electorates and 54% of the total Lebanese population, only 3.1% occupy parliamentary seats. Entities such as the National Coalition for Women in Politics and others continue to persevere despite setbacks. And key political leaders have endorsed the quota stating that “women’s quota for parliamentary seats is a main condition regardless of the new electoral law”. The fight continues – but the outcome remains unclear.

And curiously, this month Lebanon banned the film Wonder Woman. It’s been a busy – and controversial – year for this fictional feminist! You might recall the UN’s curious appointment in 2016 of Wonder Woman as the new Ambassador for Women’s Empowerment. And then, she lost the job - “one less woman in politics”! And now there’s the film, hailed as a “masterpiece of subversive feminism”. Or is it? I wrote an article to unravel these disconnects, asking if Wonder Woman is in fact a feminist icon - or a symbol of oppression…

In other IWSAW news, our Gender in Development and Humanitarian Assistance (GDHA) Diploma starts again in September - register now! And stay tuned for more articles by IWSAW’s team members on the Huffington PostThe ConversationNews Deeply – watch this space!

Happy summer!