ABAADMENA LEBANON – how to empower women

By Denise Nanni
and Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik. In the following our interview with Soulayma of
ABAADMENA in Lebanon, an organisation struggling for women empowerment and women
rights by involving community and society as a whole. Would like to thank
Soulayma for the detailed answers given to our questions.


What are the
main issues that you address with ABAAD?

ABAAD aims to achieve
gender equality as an essential condition to sustainable social and economic
development in the Middle East and North Africa region.

We seek to promote
equality and active participation through policy development, legal reform,
gender mainstreaming, eliminating discrimination, in addition to supporting the
advancement of women and empowering them to participate effectively and fully in
their communities.

ABAAD is a pioneer
organisation, in both Lebanon and the MENA region, whose work involves engaging
men in masculinities, and ending violence against women as one of its main

ABAAD seeks to
support and collaborate with civil society organizations who work on gender
equality, gender-based violence, and/or engaging men programmes, direct
services for women and men and advocacy campaigns. 

How do you
promote women empowement?

In our struggle to end gender-based violence, we
operate through the following six strategies:

Empowerment (advocacy and campaigning, front-liner and vocational training,
outreach, resource development, awareness raising activities);
men in EVAW and Masculinities (advocacy and campaigning, training, outreach,
resource development, awareness-raising activities, support groups);
and Policy Development (development, modification, and implementation of GBV
policies to protect women and girls – especially during conflicts);
and Support (holistic services for survivors of GBV, psychosocial support for
men with violent behaviour and issues with masculinities);
of Resources and IEC Materials (different types of resources on topics from
primary prevention, sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality,
gender-based violence, engaging men and masculinities, mental health, legal
rights, and others, plus capacity and skill building to public and civil
society organisations);
Changes (national public opinion campaigns addressing GBV through the
engagement of various stakeholders to effect multilateral changes within

How do you engage men in your activities
and how has civil society been responsive so far?
firmly believes in the importance of engaging men in the struggle for
gender-equality. Men’s participation is therefore a full component of our
programmes and strategies and is part of ABAAD’s identity.
We engage men through the provision of
direct services with the launching of our pioneer Men Centre in June 2012. The
Centre aims to improve men’s reactions and emotions due to daily stress, and to
support them in better dealing with and managing this stress. Two therapists
receive men, who voluntarily seek out the Centre’s confidential and anonymous
services, and offer them one-on-one psychosocial support sessions, counseling
by phone, group therapy, and/or stress and anger management workshops.
Given our pioneer efforts towards
masculinities work in the Middle East, ABAAD is often invited to participate in
Global panels, forums, and talks. Our advocacy work also includes meeting with
politicians, religious men, judges and the police.
We also conduct local and regional
capacity building trainings on masculinities and engaging men in ending
violence against women for numerous local and international NGOs across
Lebanon, in addition to gender-sensitive active non-violence trainings for the
WPP (Women Peacemakers Programme). We also conduct awareness-raising activities
on using a masculinities approach for women’s empowerment and women’s human
We also address the social traditions and
assumptions that shape the upbringing of children, their socialisation, and
gender stereotyping. This was based on the rationale that gender role
stereotyping occurs when both girls and boys are expected to enact a series of
norms or behaviours based on their sex. We also work on community awareness,
with a strong focus on the topic of dynamics between partners.
In July 2016, ABAAD launched the
Programme Ra Manual, a pioneer manual on working
with young men on different issues like 
SRHR, non-violence, Elimation of Violence Against Women, Gender-Based Violence, drugs/substance
use, romantic relationships, decision-making, and more. 
Civil society has been positively
responsive to this new approach to gender equality and it is also worth noting
that ABAAD is part of the MenEngage network and constitutes its Lebanon and
MENA focal point. ABAAD launched the MenEngage Lebanon through a series of
gender, engaging men, and masculinities trainings, in which 13 local and
international NGOs working on the ground and employing the engaging men and
masculinities approach within their programming participated. Most of the
organisations expressed their interest in becoming MenEngage Lebanon Network
members. This marked the establishment and operation of the first network
committed towards work on masculinities in the Middle East. 

Why SRHR aren’t
just a matter of private life, and how do they influence the public sphere?

actually a matter of public health. During the first quarter of 2016, ABAAD
established a new department focusing on sexualities and sexual and
reproductive health and rights (SRHR) issues as essential means to holistically
address social factors that contribute to GBV against women, men, girls, boys,
and persons with alternative sexualities.
need for this novel approach became evident based on emerging needs and gaps,
identified through working with communities and relevant stakeholders on gender
and gender discriminations within the Lebanese and regional contexts.
its establishment, work focused on the subtopics of girls’ autonomy and agency,
as well as combating sexual gender based violence.  
has been done through enhancing the clinical response to sexual assault
survivors; conducting research and producing information, education and
communication materials (IEC) on Early, Forced & Child marriage and SRHR;
in addition to contributing to ABAAD’s overall work with behavioural change models.
objectives are to uncover and highlight how social factors relating to
sexualities, gender and SRHR issues interlink in affecting the prevalence of
GBV in societies, in addition to find innovative means to start discussions and
break the silence around these topics.
you cooperate with local authorities and institutions? If yes, how?
Of course, we do. We cooperate with the
Internal Security Forces, with the judges, with the Ministry of Justice and the
Ministry of Social Affairs.
We organised and trained forensic doctors
on the clinical management of rape in institutionalised partnership with the
Lebanese Ministry of Justice.
In 2015, we launched, in partnership with
UNICEF and the Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs, eight model centres
operating throughout Lebanon. The Women and Girls Safe Spaces Centres are based
at the Social Development Centres of the Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs,
and were selected based assessments of the locales and the surroundings, and in
a manner that ensures geographical diversity, to facilitate the reach of women
in different areas of Lebanon. The Centres provide holistic care (case
management, legal consultations and court representation, psychotherapy,
psychiatric evaluation and follow up, as Hotline 81788178 well as CMR services)
as well as referral to emergency safe housing (Al Dar) and soft skills/economic
empowerment as needed for women and girl survivors of GBV and their children.