Under the name of “Thaerat”, Rawda Abdel Kafi Mazloum, known as Em Nour, a social activist and winner of the change makers Award from Jordan, could succeed in making up a unique initiative that targets women in tribes living in the Lebanese and Syrian communities in Bekaa area with the continuous support of Fe-Male feminist collective.
Pride and prejudice, are the words that describe the Arabian tribes, where these two words carry within it a lot of discrimination and violence, especially on women and girls, but Em Nour, who lives in Bar Elias, Bekaa, and fled to Lebanon after the breakout of the Syrian revolution followed by armed conflicts in 2011, has decided to challenge all these means and make a change among tribes’ families, who adopt very conservative traditions and customs banning women from living their lives with dignity.
At the beginning of 2022, Em Nour approached Fe-Male through a phone call and asked for a small grant to start sustainable development sessions, explaining that she is witnessing a lot of discrimination and injustices among the women she meets every day. And since Fe-Male works on eliminating injustice through building a young feminist movement and empowering agents of change against discriminatory norms, we made sure this revolutionary initiative gets the needed support.
“Thaerat was more than an initiative, it was an opportunity to make a change and that was not possible without Fe-Male’s support,” said Em Nour.
In her initiative, which holds revolution in its Arabic meaning, 18 women, aged between 19 and 55 years old, from different tribes were targeted, and about 42 sessions were conducted consecutively, in a small room at the Great Oven Kitchen in Bar Elias, every weekend starting from March until the end of September 2022, creating a lot of success stories among the rights holders.
The sessions delivered covered topics related to domestic violence, early and forced marriage, safe reporting and violation documentation, gender-based violence, self and health care, and other discussions and peer support sessions.
Mona Khalaf, 30 years old, mother of 4 children, from the Alwis clan, used to live in Daraa in Syria, and now in Bar Elias, a town in central Bekaa, shared with us her experience: “Thank God, a lot has developed on my personal life. Before my participation in the Initiative, I used to feel afraid of my husband, but with time I began to feel that my personality is becoming stronger”.
Mona continues to affirm: “I used to feel angry at everything around me, but later I wished that Saturday and Sunday, the days of the sessions, would soon come. They were the most beautiful days for me”. She followed, “ I hope this initiative continues.”
Before the sessions, Mona said:” I did not know what violence meant. I did not know what harassment is, but now I know how to report any violation. Previously, I did not dare to answer the phone when I received unknown calls, or how to deal with blackmailing over the phone, but today I know how to respond to threats and how to report in return”.
“I acquired the knowledge of documenting violations and violence. In the past, I used to be afraid, especially since I am a married woman, and I used to feel guilty when men I did not know called me on my phone”
The safe space that was created by the initiative gave it legitimacy and acceptance among the participants, Em Nour told us “Despite the small space we had, I noticed the big difference it made, for example, one of the participant’s husbands used to deliver his wife to the sessions every weekend”.
The only challenges were in the financial and human resources since this initiative lacks sustainability factors. But one another message Rawda was trying to achieve through this initiative is, with a small grant we can do a big difference contrary to what is prevalent: “The Financial support I received was $600, and its aim was to convey to the international organizations and associations the idea that we are able to make a difference with a small amount. I have organized more than one social activity and it only cost me small amounts, we were able to honour 26 mothers and give them symbolic Mother’s Day gifts”.