Lebanon: Engaging Men in Ending Violence Against Women
“Ending violence against women and having a society that truly espouses the principles of gender equality can only be done when men and women work together, side by side, as partners in achieving that goal.”
In an ever changing world, new Dimensions are needed in the fight to end violence against women and create a gender equal society. ABAAD (Dimensions) Resource Center for Gender Equality, a recently established Lebanese non-profit, non-politically affiliated and non-religious civil society organization, is working toward gender equality as an essential condition for sustainable social and economic development in the Middle East.
ABAAD envisions a world where women and men are equal partners in all aspects of their lives; a world where women are empowered to participate fully in everything that affects their lives and communities, and where men support and endorse women’s inclusion in these matters. ABAAD believes in working towards a society where all are free from violence and discrimination and where women and men live equally with freedom, dignity, and peace.
ABAAD has had the good fortune of having trustworthy and dedicated support from international NGOs working in the region. Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights and International Medical Corps (IMC) and many others are collaborating with ABAAD in different ways on initiatives working towards ending violence against women and promoting gender equality in the region.
One of the many unique aspects of ABAAD’s beliefs, reflected in its organizational structure and all its work, is the emphasis on working with both men and women to end violence against women. Not only does ABAAD have male and female board members and staff, but many of the present and upcoming activities and initiatives engage men and boys in ending violence against women. This includes establishing standardized tools and guidelines for work with men, creating support groups for men, and promoting men’s role in eliminating violence through creative audio-visual materials – created by men themselves. A nationwide campaign driven by men, for men, entitled “With all my force… against violence,” has just started in Lebanon.
This media campaign begins the revolutionary journey towards fostering male allies in the world of women’s human rights. This campaign does not focus on accusing the males in our society who are the perpetrators of domestic violence. Rather, this campaign praises the men in our society who are against the violence and who are active in the fight to end violence against women. This campaign supports men who, like their female counterparts, refuse to remain silent about the issue of violence against women and gender inequalities in our countries. Just as in life, we have many positive role models and examples of people, female and male, who display respect for the human condition and compassion for those in society facing exploitation and oppression. ABAAD believes that this must be reflected in our work as NGOs and civil society organizations if we hope to make any impact and change in the future of people in our communities.
The positive focus on the partnership of women and men is also important for negating cultural or sub-cultural differences in spreading ABAAD’s message. Middle Eastern society and culture is different from any other in the world. Even within the Middle Eastern cultures, such as Lebanon, there is a plethora of different backgrounds, religions, upbringings, education, and more. Positivity, optimism, and hope are fundamental ways of transcending any of these differences. Thus, for the message of the work for ending violence against women and promoting the beautiful principals of gender equality, ABAAD feels it necessary to focus on these universal principals or else risk losing a portion of the population that feels unrepresented or negatively targeted by a message of nonviolence.
Ending violence against women and having a society that truly espouses the principles of gender equality can only be done when men and women work together, side by side, as partners in achieving that goal. That is a fundamental belief at ABAAD, and one that we hope to promote through tools, research, activities, trainings, and most importantly, by the actions of the organization itself and the people within the organization. Leading by example in one’s professional and private life is the best way to spread a message. ABAAD hopes to inspire those around them to question a system that has created an over-exaggerated difference between men and women.
Hopefully through the work of ABAAD people throughout the Middle East will realize the many different dimensions that bring us together as a people, rather than simply those that tear us apart: all men and women are human beings above all else. They are partners, colleagues, and family. With so many ties between us, our only option for true happiness and success is to stand together as equals for the greater good of all.
Ghida Anani is the Founder & Director and Anthony Keedi is the Project Coordinator at in Beirut, Lebanon