Empowering local women influencers to address sexual & gender-based violence

June 9, 2021

In response to the worrisome rise of SGBV cases during the COVID-19 crises, the Tripoli Bar Association (TBA), with support from UNDP and UN Women established a hotline offering free legal aid services for SGBV victims. Made possible thanks to funding from the Government of Canada, this initiative seeks to ensure access to justice to survivors and encourage them to report violence whenever they see it.

To maximize the reach of this hotline and strengthen referral mechanisms, we are empowering local women influencers to spread awareness on and combat Sexual & Gender Based Violence (SGBV) in North Lebanon. We have joined forces with more than 15 women, many of them SGBV survivors and leaders within their community, to create a grassroots advocacy and referral networks.

Through a specialized workshop on SGBV at TBA headquarters, the allocation of seed funding and information tools, each woman is empowered to organize awareness sessions on the subject in their respective areas and communities. Each session also serves to promote the free legal aid services offered by the TBA and to encourage the reporting of SGBV.

“With this initiative, our goal is to raise awareness on SGBV in areas that are usually hard to reach. We are creating at grassroots level a network of local champions, Ambassadors of the cause, able to sensitize and provide women and their communities with essential legal information, all while bringing attention to the free legal aid services we are supporting.” explains Nino Karamaoun, UNDP’s Rule of Law and Human Rights Chief technical advisor

Furthermore, through partnering with local influencers and SGBV survivors, UNDP and TBA are making sure that victims are aware of their legal rights and encouraged to report on violence.

By enabling a conversation between survivors and victims, we are shifting the dynamics of SGBV reporting, as people with shared experiences connect differently. Through this network of local influencers, we are creating and strengthening sustainable grassroot referral mechanisms for victims of violence. Encouraged and empowered to step forward, women are today able to seek justice through the comprehensive legal support provided by the TBA and UNDP.

More than 15 women are now part of the local network of ambassadors that are on a mission to fight SGBV and ensure the referral of victims to free legal aid services. Three of them already conducted awareness sessions, reaching more than 80 women and girls in their communities.

 “This initiative is vital for women and girls living with violence and that don’t know that legal support is available and that they can seek help,” explains Lina, a social worker that is also part of the UNDP supported local network. She too conducted her session on the same topic to school students aged 13 to 16 years old.

“We are proud to partner with these women champions in the daily fight against SGBV. Iman’s session is a testament of what can be achieved. She used her position as a social worker to promote our legal aid services and raised awareness on SGBV,” continues Karamaoun. “This is a sustainable mechanism in the fight against SGBV and to safeguard victims’ right to access justice.”

UNDP and the Tripoli Bar Association are working on expanding this network, on attracting a larger number of ambassadors.  We also organized similar workshops with school students and their teachers to join the fight against GBV. Stay Tuned!