“A painting that really inspires me is this one,” said Ghada El Khoury, pointing to a drawing of a woman gazing at her own reflection in the window.
“I drew it during the lockdown when we all felt imprisoned in our homes… For me, it was a chance to reflect, think calmly, and find peace,” she added.
Ghada lives in Ain Ebel, South Lebanon, and through her talent as a painter, she gathered 15 women from her hometown and initiated “Strength of United Ladies” (SOUL) to support them in setting their creativity free and generating income through art. In light of their collaborative teamwork, SOUL has developed into an enabling safe space for women to exchange their viewpoints, discuss their needs, and use their skills to mobilize the power of change in their society.
“I believe that every person is an artist. Some women around me couldn’t find a job while others lost theirs due to the crises. SOUL was our way to find a solution, relieve stress, and be there for one another,” she expressed smiling.
Ghada is keen on learning new skills and developing her knowledge. After participating in UNDP and Canada’s gender-based violence (GBV) prevention sessions, as well as in social media and soap-making training, she reflected:” Taking part in the different sessions not only helped us increase our sales, but I was also able to address harmful gender-based social norms and inequalities. From my part, I will spread this knowledge at SOUL and within my society.”
When the initiative was launched, many of the women behind SOUL faced negative and discriminatory norms, attitudes, and behaviors that aimed to reinforce gender-based structural barriers against their success. Nevertheless, they insisted on proceeding with their work and shifted these perspectives towards a greater balance of power between women and men.
“We encountered many challenges from people in our close circle who sometimes discouraged us, as women, to secure financial stability through art; but guess what? We don’t agree and won’t give in,” Ghada said.
“As women, our economic participation is undeniably crucial and that’s exactly why we will keep grabbing every opportunity, every talent, every dream, and turning them into an accomplishment,” she concluded.
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