By Ghida Anani, UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women Grantee
Date: 24 November 2009
Occasion: 2009 International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, 24 November 2009
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“Sabah el Kheir” (Good Morning) everyone. I am Ghida Anani. I come from Lebanon, and I work with an organization called KAFA which means “Enough” violence and exploitation. I'm 28 years old and I have been working for the past eight years to end violence against women and girls, which is a very challenging task in the Middle East as violence against women and girls is often tolerated and even justified and legalized by the law. Women suffer silently from family violence, marital violence, femicide, trafficking and early marriage.
The women we suppport are often voiceless, often just invisible in the society. We help them to come out from the shadow, we stand beside them to let people hear the echo of their silence, we believe in their capacities and in their right to be protected and to live in dignity.
Unfortunately, violence against women and girls remains the least acknowledged and recognized gender issue by Arab states and its policy makers.
We believe that men are part of the problem, but they are also part of the solution. In the Arab region, men dominate the public and private spheres, so working with men and boys is strategically critical if we want to begin to make headway in reversing the scourge of violence against women and girls in Arab countries.
With the support of the UN Trust Fund, we have started working with men and boys in ending violence against women, without compromising our escalating efforts to continue empowering and supporting women survivors of violence. This new approach was a strategic choice for us, because it was clear to us that they are very much key agents of change. We saw this in our daily work.
We have succeeded for the first time, in the Arab region namely Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Occupied Palestinian Territory, Yemen and Jordan to develop a pilot Training Of Trianers manual on best practices and approaches to work with men and boys to end violence against women and girls and to deliver a culturally sensitive Training of Trainers targeting women’s organizations, to promote working with men and boys.
We are promoting working with men as allies in the Parliament and other governmental bodies, to back up the demand for a law that criminalizes family violence against women in Lebanon. Many committed men are joining hands with women in support of the cause.
We have started young men’s forums, through which we disseminate knowledge to influence positive changes among young men to act against violence. They will form for the first time a White Ribbon Campaign in the region, to link globally with the SG’s campaign.
The project marks a new era in the way women’s organizations are working, by shifting their interventions to target men to influence them as decision makers, community and religious leaders, and as husbands and brothers. Even in the short period of time of this initiative, we have received a tremendous response.
Finally, we emphasize the fact that the UN has a clear role to play in leading efforts to end violence against women and girls around the world. The new-agreed UN women’s agency would be central to tackling the issue of bringing men into this process and must be given the tools to do so.
We may not be able to change the balance of power between men and women in Arab society over night. However, that does not mean that we cannot change violent and abusive behaviour towards women and girls. While there many men and boys in the Arab world who are opposed to violence against women and girls, it is absolutely crucial that more and more are brought into this equation.
We urge increasing resources to the UN Trust Fund to end violence against women and girls around the globe in order to meet the target of $100 million by 2015, including to resource efforts that would enhance working with men and boys to not only to end violence against women and girls, but to also promote gender equality in all spheres.