Photo: @rochdi_najat / Twitter

6 NGOs to enhance women’s participation in blast recovery via UN fund

Six women’s rights organizations in Lebanon have been selected by the United Nations for the Women’s Peace & Humanitarian Fund (WPHF) to work on grassroots projects that support the participation of women and marginalized groups in the Beirut blast response and recovery process.

The six selected NGOs are Seeds for Legal Initiatives (SEEDS), Haven for Artists, Fe-Male, Auberge Beity, Madaniyat, and Dar Al Amal, as reported by UN Lebanon.

“Women of Lebanon were at the forefront of the humanitarian and relief efforts in the aftermath of the tragic Beirut port explosions as well as other peace-making initiatives,” said Najat Rochdi, United Nations Deputy Special Coordinator, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon. “Their leading role must be recognized and strengthened if we are to achieve a just and equitable recovery that leaves no one behind.”

Each of the organizations will focus on different elements, from the improvement of public disaster management to advocacy through social media, art, and academia between June 2021 and August 2022.

What’s being funded?

Through the fund, legal advocacy NGO SEEDS will launch a study focused on whether recovery programs that received funding after the August 4 explosion succeeded in promoting women’s participation in public decision-making.

All-inclusive feminist arts collective Haven for Artists will create cross-community, political, and cultural spaces to amplify the voices of women and marginalized communities, creating networking and collaboration opportunities.

Meanwhile, feminist grassroots group Fe-Male will share women’s stories after the blast, documenting the contribution of women in peace building and recovery processes via traditional and social media. Additionally, they will perform a media audit and capacity building workshops.

Auberge Beity, which works towards sustainable development through empowering local communities, will improve disaster management by focusing on women running their own businesses or at the head of their houses, women frontline activists, and elderly women living alone –three of the groups of women most affected by or involved with the Beirut blast.

As for Madaniyat, their project in partnership with Ondes will tackle the marginalization of women in humanitarian action and formal and informal local planning by establishing women’s committees.

Finally, Dar Al Amal will focus on at-risk and vulnerable women in Burj Hammoud and Sin El fil through the creation of a women-led group that can push for better access to services and create safe spaces. According to the UN, 50 women will participate in awareness raising sessions and a core group of 10 women will gain skills to help assess community needs and establish relations with local service providers.

The exclusion of women

More than 200 people were killed by the Beirut blast, caused by the explosion of a large amount of ammonium nitrate that had been stored at the Beirut port for six years with the knowledge of officials.

A joint rapid gender analysis from the UN revealed that women with increased vulnerabilities make up a sizable portion of the population affected by the Beirut blast. Women-headed households, the elderly, refugees, disabled, LGBTQ+ women, and migrant workers are also particularly vulnerable to poverty and food insecurity.

Despite playing central roles in responding to Lebanon’s multi-faceted crises, women in the country are often excluded from leadership and decision-making processes.

In 2018, women took up only 6 seats in the newly-elected Parliament as compared to 4 in 2009. Women also only constitute 20 percent of the Lebanese workforce, with 58 percent of paid labor being informal, unregulated, and unprotected by labor laws.

Through rapid financing, WPHF fund works to support women’s leadership and participation in decision-making processes in conflict and post-conflict zones.

“Lebanese women have been playing remarkable roles in responding to the country’s many crises. They have been central to Lebanon’s protest movements, vital to the relief efforts that followed the Beirut blast, and have been leading numerous civil society groups,” said Andreas Kindl, Ambassador of Germany to Lebanon, whose country is supporting the new project in Lebanon. “However, they still find themselves sidelined from many decision-making processes.”

Evidence suggests that the participation of women in peace-building processes leads to more sustainable peace. Similarly, their participation in humanitarian operations quickens economic recovery.