SDG16+ Champions of Change

The Lebanese teacher fighting to end violence against women


Champions of Change is an initiative started by the Pathfinders to highlight advocates who have made an impact in their communities and have helped to create peaceful, just and inclusive societies (SDG16+). It provides an opportunity to feature individuals, businesses, and organizations doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. As part of the Movement to Halve Violence by 2030, hear from Champions who have made building peaceful societies their cause and mission in life, and learn what you can do to join them!

Ghida Anani is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Public Health at the Lebanese University. In 2008, she received the ‘’Excellence in Collaborative Teaching Award’’ from the American University of Beirut. As an expert in Gender-Based Violence and Child Protection, Anani has published several studies, articles, training kits, and community educational materials on GBV & Child Sexual Abuse in Lebanon and the MENA region. In June 2011, she founded and continues to manage ABAAD — Resource Centre for Gender Equality, which was awarded the ‘’Womanity Award’’.

We spoke with Ghida Anani to learn more about her work and what drives her:

What ignited your pursuit for safe and peaceful societies?

I am a medical social worker and clinical counselor, and a passionate activist in the field of Gender-Based Violence and Child Protection. I started my career as a social worker at the Lebanese Council to Resist Violence against Women and then co-founded along with a pool of activists the association KAFA, where I acted as Head of the Ending Child Sexual Abuse Unit and Head of the Engaging Men and Ending Violence against Women program. My disappointment in the way of working in civil society organizations pushed me to establish a “model” organization that puts into practice public health strategies while using rights-based and results-based approaches. And so in 2011, I established ABAAD in a small office with only a handful of staff members. Today, ABAAD has more than 160 dedicated full-time staff members and is considered a leading agency promoting gender equality in the MENA region.

My vision is for a world free of violence and discrimination, where all people live in freedom, dignity, and peace. A world where women live in dignity and agency have fair access and control over all assets and resources and can pursue their dreams.

To achieve a peaceful, just, and inclusive world, what does success look like to you? And what are the key factors in achieving this vision?

Success would mean living in a world in which men and women live as equitable partners and work together to secure better lives for their future. Women are effectively empowered and participate in democratic processes that affect their lives and their communities. My vision is for a world free of violence and discrimination, where all people live in freedom, dignity, and peace. A world where women have fair access and control over all social, economic, natural assets and resources and are able to pursue their happiness. Hence, ending patriarchy, poverty, corruption are essential factors to achieve that end.

How does your work significantly reduce and prevent violence?

Gender equality leads to achieving sustainable democracy, peace and socio-economic development. However, it is a path that requires shifting social norms, gender roles, and most substantially power roles. ABAAD’s mission, therefore, focuses its efforts to advance policy development and shift social norms and public attitudes to dismantle patriarchal and oppression power systems and ultimately realizing gender rights. Starting from a holistic perspective and focusing on gender relations and the totality of social economic and political links, women will become active agents of development with increased political power within the system.

How has COVID-19 impacted your work? Are there any lessons learned from the pandemic that you hope to apply in future work?

The pandemic was a real test to human relationships on all levels. It has pushed us to quickly adapt and shift priorities to respond to the immediate needs of women and girls. We had to put some initiatives and activities on hold to ensure the continuity of life-saving services, especially with the drastic increase in the number of GBV cases amidst lockdown.

The pandemic has also compelled us to form genuine personal bounds to survive. Throughout the last months, these bonds have been critical to overcoming this unique period in history, overcoming the deep psychological impact the pandemic has left in our homes and communities, and our very livelihoods, economic solidarity and safety. It has invariably transformed our personal, family and professional lives to be more flexible and adaptable.

What advice do you have for those seeking to make a difference for a more peaceful world?

Have deep faith in yourself and never ever lose the passion for what you can do. Some walls might look exceptionally high but if you make a decision from the bottom of your heart in a fearless way, persevere, adapt, learn from falling, you will achieve your ultimate potential.

“Identity is what we pass on, not what we inherit. What we invent, not what we remember”. Hence, no matter how hard your day gets, do not forget to dream, to be creative, to leave a butterfly trail, and to live passionately until your last breath… Let this be your identity!