Lebanese and Syrian women of Akroum sewing new friendships

Photo Credits: Heba Rachrach © UNDP 2016

Challenged by the weather, tough living conditions and culturally challenging environment, women in Akroum, Akkar, in North Lebanon, grasp the biggest offered opportunity so far as they say: a women-empowering workshop.

Supported by the UNDP “Peace Building in Lebanon” project and funded by the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development through KfW, the Akroum socio-cultural committee organized a tricot and sewing workshop in Qenieh municipality from January until March 2016 gathering over 130 Lebanese and Syrian women from the seven villages of Akroum.

From the committee’s perspective, empowering local women will reinforce social stability and activate a positive cultural exchange between the Lebanese host communities and Syrian displaced.

Committees were established together by local authorities and local actors, under the supervision of municipalities in different areas of the south, the north and the bekaa.

As a result of a long process of support offered by the UNDP “Peace Building in Lebanon” in partnership with “BRD- Beyond Reform and Development” and with the financial support of the Department for International Development (DFID) and the EU through UNHCR, these committees were able since September 2014, to address the existing challenges as well as those caused by the impact of the Syrian crisis on host communities.

In this context, “Mechanisms for Social Stability (MSS)” were designed based on the analysis of local conflicts and the specificities of each region, which lead to the creation of these structures.

Based on the human rights and conflicts monitor that was developed by the committee as part of the MSS, the committee has tracked some alarming problems in the area.

“This activity came as a result of the monitor, targeting traced issues. We found some alarming difficulties facing Lebanese and Syrian women due to intermarriages between Lebanese and Syrians and polygyny” explained Khaled Nohman, socio-cultural committee coordinator. He added “we succeeded at gathering Lebanese and Syrian resident women from Akroum, in one place, learning one thing together. This gave them the space to exchange positivity, experience and accept each other as a first step.”

Speaking of the challenges that faced the committee during the preparation of the workshop, Ahmad Hassan, socio-cultural committee member clarified “at first, only few women registered, but now the number of participants exceeded our expectations! Thanks to our volunteers’ help in spreading the word, we see new faces every day. This shows eagerness and excitement for this kind of activities here.”

In the 5th session of the training that took place on January 17, 2016, the enthusiasm was still going strong. The training room was bursting with repetitive sounds of sewing machines and scissors, happy colors of wool rolls, and positive energy.

“I am so happy to be out. I am 60 years old and still learning new things while making new friends” said Jamileh Rahmoun, Syrian participant from Mounseh. “I want to be part of this community and participate in activities rather than isolate myself.”

For Naima Ali, Lebanese participant from Qenieh, she believes that even if today’s training focus was on tricot and sewing — which may sound very basic to some — her town needs such initiatives. She said that they suffer from a bad economy, and this will contribute to satisfying the needs of families. Adding that these sessions were also an opportunity for them to meet “when we get to know one another, violence finds no place among us.”

The session ended with an awareness raising lecture on Human Rights facilitated by Ministry of Social Affairs’ Regional Coordinators Hassan Traboulsi and Alia Chaaban. Future sessions will tackle topics like Hygiene, Health, Family and Children.

Photo Credits: Heba Rachrach © UNDP 2016

Chaaban told the participants that the committee of Akroum is a great opportunity for women to reach out for their rights, inviting them to embrace this training and make use of it in their personal lives.

On another note, Traboulsi demonstrated to the participants the principles of Human Rights from basic good living conditions, to education and peace.

After the lecture, Nada El Zein, Lebanese participant from Kfartoun, said “women in our area don’t have access to their rights. Luckily, the committee gave us this chance to attend a Human Rights lecture, for the first time reaching women who aren’t aware of what they can do and how much they can provide to their societies on the social, economic and personal levels.

The committee promises to initiate more activities and target more monitored problems in order to contribute to social stability and peace.

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