Rabea Al-Kadri talks about an activity aimed at women in Lebanon:
We are a group of women in Lebanon who took some courses with the organization Women Now. These were leadership courses that lasted for a year, and when we finished, we already had our own initiative in mind. Given our position as Syrian women in Lebanon, and given that the course had really made us feel the value of education, the first idea we had was to offer courses to combat illiteracy. We also wanted to empower women economically, even if it was in the simplest way, by offering a course on handicrafts. The goal there was twofold: the women would learn a useful skill and we would also be working on preserving the community. We also felt, whether as Lebanese or Syrian women, or women from other nationalities, the need for some release from the current situation, especially given the coronavirus pandemic. Even before the pandemic, people, especially women, were facing very difficult circumstances. So our general goal was to empower women educationally, economically, and provide psychological support.
On Women Now’s role, which provided the training:
The main role played by Women Now was that they had advertised their leadership courses and we had seen those ads and signed up. So they provided us with what we needed. We gained a lot of skill and knowledge from those courses, and we wanted to pass on what we’d learned from them to other women. Therefore Women Now played a major role by gathering a large group of women together and providing them with training and skills.
On how trainees were chosen for the program:
We reflected the approach of the courses we’d taken, which is the approach of Women Now, whereby there’s no discrimination when it comes to nationality or ethnicity. When we went to recruit women from the Marj area in the central Beqaa in Lebanon, we had no restrictions as to which women we were targeting. Whoever needed courses to combat illiteracy, or whoever needed to learn was welcome. We had no other criteria, and we targeted women of all and any nationality.
In terms of difficulties:
We’re currently a modest initiative, supported and funded by Women Now, in partnership with other organizations, such as the German Parliament, and of course we received training from Khutwat. We don’t just want this to be a one-off initiative and therefore the difficulty lies in how to continue with this work, so I hope we receive funding that enables us to really effect some change in our communities.
On the pros and cons of implementing a pluralist and feminist awareness-raising project:
Diversity is a huge positive whose impact we could clearly see on the ground. There are now new social relationships between women of different nationalities, Lebanese, Palestinian, and Syrian. And they’ve taken those relationships outside the confines of the center: they now go out together and visit one another and this builds peace across the entire community.
On how the project has impacted the way people think:
I gained many skills and much more knowledge about things that might have just gone unnoticed before. As a teacher as well as a former trainee myself, these courses with the women have taught me so much and sharpened all my skills, which is exactly what we’re trying to pass on to these women through this initiative, so that they too might gain new knowledge and skills.