Director’s Update: September 2017

We’re delighted to have students back on campus at LAU! The energy and enthusiasm is palpable, and has galvanized even more advocacy, activism and action at IWSAW!

We started the month with an Open House event to welcome students back to LAU. This year our theme focused on challenging society’s pre-determined gender roles, interests and expectations, by asking students “Why blue for boys and pink for girls?!”

Students enthusiastically engaged and voiced their opinion – to us, and with each other. The idea was to present a simple question that would provoke debate. Here’s what we heard:

Female: “I have three brothers, I like to wear their clothes, and play with trucks!”

Female: “I hate Barbies and I am a girl, and so what!”

Male: “It depends on how the parents decide to raise their kids, if the father wants his daughter to stay in the kitchen for instance, it is his choice!”

The debates grew more animated and heated - quickly moving from colors to perceptions and stereotypes, like women’s driving skills and men’s dominance in the workforce. Keep thinking, debating, asking questions, and challenging assumptions!

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Moufeeda Haidar, IWSAW staff member, accompanied me to attend the 5th Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) Forum in Rio, Brazil. The Forum gathered international experts, practitioners, donors, gender activists, policymakers, researchers and more. SVRI is a platform to showcase innovative research and strategize to respond to sexual violence as well as other forms of violence against women. We’re grateful to our feminist allies at the Coalition of Feminists for Social Change (COFEM) for inviting us to join them and speak together on critical issues to address violence against women and girls.

Back to Beirut, as part of Baladi Cap’s Civic Engagement Initiative and within our Human Rights Network project, IWSAW conducted a workshop on engaging the media – a critical ally! We discussed the role of media and social media in challenging or reinforcing critical social issues.

Our human rights partners have different approaches to media. Soins Infirmiers et Developpement Communautaire (SIDC) uses media to promote women’s protection concerns. SKOUN uses media to influence legislations for drugs users. The Youth Network for Civic Activism (YNCA) engages with media to mobilize people and lobby for the enforcement of legislation for child protection – monitoring child rights violations, and protection from child labor, sexual abuse and other forms of violence.

Throughout 2017 IWSAW has been advancing its innovative training program for officers in the Lebanese Internal Security Forces and General Security. Funded by the Dutch Embassy in Lebanon the program trained local law enforcement personnel on how to prevent and respond to cases of gender-based violence and how to investigate GBV cases in a manner that is safe, ethical, and appropriate in order to protect survivors and to bring perpetrators to justice. And finally, 35 officers graduated at the end of this month in a closing ceremony that was presided by the General Director of the Internal Security Forces along with senior administration of LAU and the Dutch Embassy. We’re looking forward to further engagement with the security forces as they discuss next steps and determine where we go from here!

More soon from us - and our friends in uniform!

Enjoy the fall,