Director’s Update: August 2017

This month, IWSAW was in Toronto, Canada! Our Assistant Director, Myriam Sfeir, attended a course at the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) for Change Institute.

Why is the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) so important? This is an international treaty in the United Nations human rights’ system. CEDAW is a comprehensive international agreement to improve the status of women – a women’s bill of rights. It covers economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights – and establishes rights for women in areas that weren’t previously subject to international standards. In short, it is a very powerful tool! CEDAW ensures that we all share a universal definition of discrimination against women – and therefore a universal responsibility to end this discrimination!

So, Myriam joined women’s organizations, human rights defenders, government representatives, researchers, grassroots community leaders, educators, lawyers, and more, to learn how to apply and share CEDAW principles. Stay tuned for more on this!

On 11 August back in Beirut, MTV Alive invited me to talk about the Institute. I began with the story of LAU’s rich history – empowering women through education since the 1830s! And I explained that the reality - not just for Lebanon and the Arab world - but globally is one of gender inequality. And achieving it is the greatest human rights mandate of our time. MTV Alive showed both our animated song on gender equality and the winning video of the student competition. We talked about how working with youth is the future - the answer to achieving human rights, gender equality, and progress. When we talk about sustainable development and social change, it is young people who are going to take the lead. So it’s our job to give them the tools and the skills they need to make that a reality.

After all, gender inequality affects all of us – limiting the scope of our lives. Gender equality ensures we all have access to the full range of opportunities and resources – in a world where everyone has a choice and a voice. It is about leveling the playing field, ensuring that both women and men have a chance to live up to their full potential.

But there are movements toward gender equality! As one great example, this month the Lebanese government abolished Article 522 which allows a rapist to escape punishment by marrying the survivor of his crime. While this is a strong step from politicians in favor of women’s rights – there is more work to do!

We argued against Article 522 – and against all forms of gender-based violence. But it is not enough to change laws: Everyone in Lebanon must act to change the way society views women. After all, you’ve heard me say before that unless we address inequalities everywhere, we will achieve equality nowhere! Check out our articles in the Daily Star and on the News Deeply’s webinar; “Ending Marrying your Rapist Law”.

Meanwhile, within IWSAW, you’ve probably already heard of the global consultation we’ve been conducting to update the name of the Institute? Well, here’s some background and a link to the survey.  The goal is to have a global discussion and critical rethink about our name – to examine if it still reflects our priorities and the evolution of this focus area. After all, IWSAW is 44 years old – and we want to make sure we are as valued – and as valid – as we were when we started in 1973! We’ve had great feedback and lots of interesting suggestions – so let’s please keep this going!

And finally, the month ended with the very first graduation ceremony for our continuing education certificate on Gender in Development and Humanitarian Assistance (GDHA)! Congratulations, graduates! The next round starts in October and will focus on gender-based violence. It’s not too late to sign up!

We’re excited for the Fall Semester to start – it’s been too quiet around here!