Regional Forum - Enhancing Gender Equality and Engendering A Response to the Syrian Crisis in Host Communities

06 Aug 2019
saad hariri

Held under the patronage and in the presence of the President of the Council of Ministers of Lebanon, H.E. Mr. Saad Hariri

The conflict in Syria has triggered the highest level of forced displacement since World War II, with the number of registered refugees reaching a harrowing 5,6 million. It has had repercussions in the whole region, and above all, in the neighboring countries, with the protracted nature of the crisis drawing more and more on the capacities of host communities. The toll that such a crisis has taken on women refugees is particularly high. Women’s social and economic disempowerment, which existed prior to the conflict, has been aggravated, putting women at risk of different forms of abuse and exploitation. The precariousness of their situation is exacerbated by the fact that a great number of women refugees still lack access to services and proper civil and legal documentation, which prevents them from seeking the protection of relevant authorities when they face violence or discrimination.

The Regional Forum “Enhancing Gender Equality and Engendering a Response to the Syrian Crisis in Host women Countries” took place on the 3rd of July 2019 at the Grand Sérail, Lebanon to enhance mutual understanding about the gaps in implementing women’s rights, protecting the most vulnerable women and addressing laws discriminating against them. It was followed by a Regional Round Table Discussion, held on the 4th of  July at the Ministry of Social Affairs and chaired by H.E. Dr. Richard Kouyoumjian, Minister of Social Affairs, Lebanon. “It is about time laws are amended to the benefit of women. It is a shame that we are still discussing these issues as if they required discussion. I will do everything in my power to grant women their rights," remarked Mr. Saad Hariri at the opening of the Forum. Ms. Safadi, Lebanon’s Minister of State for the Economic  Empowerment of Women and Youth (EEWAY) announced the establishment in Lebanon of the National Gender Observatory at her Ministry to support ongoing plans and actions, especially at the legal and policy level by addressing discriminatory legislation against women. 

Engendering the syrian crisis

From left to right Ms Boriana Jonsson, Executive Director of EFI, Ms Violet Safadi, Minister of State for Economic Empowerment of Women and Youth in Lebanon, Mr Saad Hariri, President of the Council of Ministers, Ms Christina Lassen, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon, at the opening session of the Regional Forum “Enhancing Gender Equality and Engendering a Response to the Syrian Crisis in Host Countries”

The Forum took place in the frame of the gender program “Strengthening access to protection, participation and services for women refugees, internally displaced people (IDPs), and women in the host communities in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq” funded by the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis, the EU MADAD Fund. The program is being implemented by the MADAD for Women consortium, which is comprised of seven civil society partners, under the leadership of EuroMed Feminist Initiative (EFI).  

The Forum provided a platform for dialogue, exchange of experiences, best practices, and lessons learned from addressing the needs of Syrian women refugees and vulnerable women from host communities in Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, both at the level of policy and in practice. A number of key political actors from Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan attended, including Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Ministers and governmental officials, representatives of international and national organizations, UN and EU agencies, diplomats, and representatives of civil society organizations. One of the most important points that were made, was the need to involve governmental stakeholders and build a solid partnership between them and women´s rights organizations in order to facilitate the work of the latter and ensure governmental support for women´s rights in Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq.

The MADAD for Women partners stressed the importance of the adopted two-pronged approach in addressing the multi-layered consequences of the protracted crises, combining emergency response with long-term development and sustainability. The emergency response in Lebanon and Iraq provides women and girls, who are victims of sexual and gender-based violence, with comprehensive and accessible services, better access to safe spaces, psychosocial support, legal consultations, and information about their rights. In Jordan, women have better access to decent jobs through vocational training. Work is done on raising their awareness of their legal and labour rights, and measures are taken to improve their work conditions. By creating safe spaces for women and girls and thus enabling them to cope with the social, psychological, and economic challenges, which they face, the MADAD for Women common action contributes to women´s protection and ability to act, and herewith to the empowerment of the community as a whole.

Ministers and ministerial representatives from Lebanon, Iraq, KR-I, and Jordan, who attended the Regional Forum                                   

From left to right: Dr. Ibtisam Aziz, Director General of the Women Empowerment Department of the Council of Minister in Iraq, H.E Dr. Richard Kouyoumjian, Minister of Social Affairs in Lebanon, Mr. Ahmad Massadeh, Specialist at the Directorate of Policies and International Cooperation of the Ministry of Labour in Jordan, Ms. Nada Nader, EFI

Beyond the emergency response, long-term development and sustainability have been embraced as key aims at the national level. H.E Dr. Richard Kouyoumjian, Minister of Social Affairs in Lebanon declared: “Achieving gender equality and ending discrimination is a top priority for Lebanon, and this goal is addressed with a comprehensive development approach in line with the ‘Sustainable Development Agenda 2030’.”

A set of policy actions accompanied by awareness-raising campaigns have continued to enhance national gender equality frameworks, encouraging their implementation at both local and national level. Mr. Hamid Al-Ghazi, Secretary-General of the  Council of Ministers, Iraq, represented by Dr. Ibtisam Azez, stressed the importance of addressing the current crisis through cross-sector cooperation. Dr. Azez highlighted Iraq’s pioneering experience in being the first country in the region to develop and implement a National Action Plan (NAP) for the UNSCR 1325 on women, peace, and security. The NAP framework ensures the provision of comprehensive services to refugee and internally displaced women as well as women in the host communities. Mr. Ahmad Massadeh, Specialist at the Directorate of Policies and International Cooperation of the Jordanian  Ministry of Labour, presented the experience of the Ministry of creating an administrative unit that would facilitate the access of Syrian refugees to the labour market.

Civil Society Partners presenting the findings of the Baseline Report
From left to right: Mr. Ghaleb Hijazi, BDC Jordan, Ms. Suzan Aref WEO in Iraq, Mr. Daniel Delati, CARE International in Lebanon, Ms. Mais Afaneh, EFI

Follow-Up Regional Roundtable Discussion on 4th of July 2019 at Ministry of Social Affairs, chaired by Dr. Richard Kouyoumjian Minister of Social Affairs, Lebanon 

The baseline report that was presented at the Forum demonstrated that even though the MADAD for Women partners and the governments shared the goals of empowering the local communities, there was still a pressing need to shed more light on different forms of GBV as barriers to women´s meaningful social and economic participation and to find effective ways of preventing such violence. The need for legal services and access to identity and civil documentation was also highlighted. In the long term, the lack of such documentation could become a serious obstacle to return, as people would not have the means to claim certain basic rights and protections, such as access to education and other services. 

To view the photos of the Regional Forum, click here.

To view the photos of the Regional Round Table, click here

The EuroMed Feminist Initiative collaborates in Lebanon with CARE International Lebanon, Legal Action Worldwide, and Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering. In Iraq, it works with Baghdad Women’s Association and Women Empowerment Organization and in Jordan, with Business Development Centre and Tamkeen.

About the EU Regional Trust Fund in response to the Syrian crisis, the EU MADAD Fund:

Since its establishment in December 2014, a significant share of the EU’s non-humanitarian aid for Syria’s neighboring countries is provided through the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis, the EU MADAD Fund. The Trust Fund brings a more coherent and integrated EU aid response to the crisis and primarily addresses longer-term economic, educational, protection and social needs of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq, and supports overstretched local communities and their administrations.