On November 25, 2010, Lebanon joined over 55 countries around the world by organising the first White Ribbon Campaign in the Middle East. The campaign carried out by KAFA (enough) Violence & Exploitation, the National Coalition for legislating protection of women from family violence, & Oxfam GB, started on November 25 and will last 16 days.
Both men and women activists will run a series of groundbreaking activities in coalition with various partners: the Lebanese Ministry of Social affairs, UN TRUST FUND for Ending Violence Against Women, International Medical Crops, UNFPA Leb., UNIFEM Jo., OHCHR Leb., the Italian Embassy in Beirut, The Australian Embassy in Beirut, Kvinna Till Kvinna.
The focus of the campaign is on mobilising men and boys to endorse the draft law on the Protection of Women from Family Violence. The main goal of the White Ribbon Campaign is to encourage men and boys to pledge never to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women. KAFA is trying to achieve this goal through raising awareness and mobilising men to support the campaign.
A wide range of relevant activities were planned to be performed during a 16 day period: a massive White Ribbon Campaign, a television documentary, public awareness sessions, wall graffiti by survivors of violence, educational pit stops and distribution of various promotional materials.
In addition, a human chain will be organised during the closing ceremony where women and men will be standing hand in hand in a message of solidarity to support the law.
Committed volunteers play the most crucial role in any campaign. For this reason, KAFA and Oxfam GB are collaborating with five universities where young talented students would start mobilising their colleagues to join the White Ribbon Campaign and support its goals. Fadi, Naji and Mohammad are three volunteers from the Lebanese American University (LAU) who shared their motives, roles and visions about their involvement in the first White Ribbon Campaign in Lebanon.
Fadi Rajeh, a 21 years old man, is a social activist at his university. Fadi has heard about the White Ribbon Campaign internationally and he believes that he is committed to the cause of this Campaign. “What motivated me was the fact that our society looks at women and men differently” he says. “My daily observations raised a lot of questions about the unfairness and inequality toward women” he adds.
For Fadi, it is not enough not be violent with women. Fadi considers that “if one is not a violent person with women this does not mean that you are not concerned about this matter. Some women are being subject to violence somewhere”. “This is against basic human rights” he added. Fadi did not witness physical violence against women but he thinks that verbal abuse is more serious than physical abuse. “I observe this everyday in conversations where women are treated as subordinates to men. I cannot tolerate it. Something needs to be done about it” he explains. Fadi does not limit his activism to campaigning and conventional education: “Education is an ongoing process for me. I can educate people while walking in a street, and my behaviour toward women could be the good example that others can learn from”.
Naji Ghaziri is a 20 years old volunteer and activist in the United Nation Model at LAU. Naji is a movie buff and that was how he came to be exposed to the various forms of abuse against women. He explains: “a movie like Enough, which stars by Jennifer Lopez, focused my attention on practices that I would not accept to be applied on my beloved or any human being. I just put myself in the shoes of others who are subject to violence”. “This campaign is a good cause to volunteer for” he adds.
Naji summarises the problems that he wants to tackle saying that “the wrong perception of the oriental society for the man and the passiveness of the society are the way I identify the problem”.
“Many people in Lebanon see then man as a figure of power. This is a very limited image; physical power is not the real image of men” he says. He adds that “I am trying to mobilise student on campus to support the campaign; my message is that it is not enough not to adopt violent means against women; one should also be active in order to end this phenomenon”. As a part of his voluntary activities with the United Nation Model, Naji teaches young students in schools. “I will adopt what I have learned through this campaign in my classes. What is learned in youth is carved in stone” he comments.
Mohammad Obeid, a 21 years old volunteer with the United Nations Model at LAU was fascinated by the idea of the campaign. He says: “The idea of the campaign is really needed in our society. Our traditions and customs make it permissible for men to exercise power over women”. “Life is not about the rule of the fittest; domestic violence causes a lot of damage in the family life and it has negative effects on the development of children” he comments.
The observations of Mohammad led to a strong belief that the problem is deep in the minds of many people in the society. “Dehumanising women has to be eliminated. I found this campaign to be good start, in order to raise awareness to end gender-based violence. Through mobilising my colleagues, word of mouth could spread enough awareness and knowledge, therefore change” he says.
Like his colleagues, Mohammad believes that education is the key of success to end violence against women. He explains: “I was never exposed to this issue in my school. I think the best start is to approach education decision makers to include this subject in curriculums for students at an early age; this would reduce the negative effect of bad traditions on children”. “You mess with the seed, you mess with the tree” he adds.
All volunteers share a belief that what they are doing and their expectation to kick off a successful campaign that could initiate change along with other committed people who will be exposed to their activities.