Empowering women and increasing their political participation through grassroots initiatives

In 2020, elbarlament – cultures of democracy together with the Syrian civil society organisation Women Now For Development launched and developed the project „Women Take the Lead”. 

The project aims to foster sustainable and autonomous social and political leadership of female Syrian refugees and Lebanese women in the Bekaa region of Lebanon. To achieve this goal, the project targeted 46 women from Syria and Lebanon, who sought to develop and enhance their political and social leadership qualifications, thereby promoting the active participation of women in rebuilding Syria and in taking part in the political movement in Lebanon. 

We supported the integration of the participants into their host communities in Lebanon by offering funding opportunities for six grassroots initiatives. The women leading these initiatives had the opportunity to apply what they had learned in the leadership programme and transfer this knowledge to their peer women and to the wider community, both Syrian and Lebanese. All six initiatives had a focus on empowering women and increasing women’s participation in the political, social and economic sphere, as well as on providing education to children. The following initiatives received funding through the project:

  • STL (Skill Technology, Life) provided economic empowerment to women in order to increase their chances of entering the labour market through acquiring IT skills. The initiative targeted 20-30 women, who acquired various advanced technical skills which will support them in finding better job opportunities. The initiative resulted in an increased awareness of the job opportunities availabel in website design and programming. Moreover, it contributed to breaking stereotypes that lead to women being confined to sewing, nursing or teaching occupations.
  • I am an influential woman supported women interested in political participation to activate their role and crystallise their capabilities in bringing about a process of change in the Central Bekaa region. The initiative targeted 15 women in Middle and West Bekaa and aimed to increase the participants’ negotiation, debating and dialogue skills. The initiative also aimed to raise the women’s awareness of their civil rights, especially the right to participate in public affairs.
  • Circle of Women familiarised women with their civil, political and social rights, and built their capacities in the economic field. The initiative targeted 25 women in Arsal where there is almost no access for women to safe spaces where women can meet and exchange with each other. The initiaitve contributed to raising awareness of women’s rights in society in a positive and constructive way, taking into consideration the sensitivity of the topic in the given local context. In addition, the leaders of the initiative organised a discussion session with the mayor and civic activists in the Arsal region on women’s rights with the aim of spreading awareness about such rights and creating a culture of open discussion about this topic in public settings. 
  • For each other targeted 32 women throughout 25 working sessions that aimed at improving the these women’s lives many different aspects, for example through developing their crafting, reading and writing skills (for illiterate women), or by providing psychosocial support to women in the Marj area. The initiative successfully promoted the integration between Syrian and Lebanese women, including though a breakfast activity with Lebanese and Syrian food prepared by the participating women. The initiative received support from the local community and other organisations, which was reflected in the high number of women registering and attending the different sessions. 
  • The smile of hope raised women’s awareness of their rights and the rights of their children and created a safe space for children to express their feelings and opinions. The initiative targeted 50 women and 50 children through different sessions and activities that contributed to teaching the children to read and write. The initiative further aimed to improve the communication among the children and to give them a chance to take part in a range of other activities (not only educational), as well as increasing the women’s awareness about children’s rights, early marriage, gender equality and gender-based violence. 
  • The good seeds contributed to increasing the knowledge and awareness of their rights of 60 children, adolescent boys and girls who are children of detainees and individuals who have forcefully disappeared in Syria. The initiative focused on the children’s civil rights, and on enhancing their self-confidence through technical and professional psychological support. The initiative targeted 55 teenagers and children through different activities and support sessions that helped them and their families, in order to get their voice heard and their hardships acknowledged. The initiative was well-received by families, parents and children, who showed enthusiasm and willingness to participate in all activities.

In spite of all the difficulties that the women faced during these times of fear and uncertainty, they showed a high degree of resilience which enabled them to implement their ideas on the ground. They experienced that by building trust and good working relations among the team members, creating safe spaces for themsleves and other women, and offering support ot each other and their communties, they could achieve real impact. The whole process of project design and joint implementation created a sense of integration and solidarity between the participating Syrian and Lebanese women, who worked together to bring about positive change in their communites, based shared interests and motivation.