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16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence

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A number of awareness sessions and recreational activities were held at the Nabd Community Centre, as well as in the Salkhad area and surrounding villages to raise awareness about gender-based violence and other related issue. The occasion was seized to introduce the 16-day campaign against GBV, why the campaign was launched and for what purposes.
A session for women and girls: The women and girls were given a warm welcome, followed by an icebreaker activity. The session was about various methods to increase trust between mothers and daughters. Several activities were implemented on relationship building. Then the girls were edified about using social media to raise awareness about harassment, the steps that should be taken to reduce this phenomenon in our society and appropriate solutions in case such problems actually occurred.
“When I had this problem,” said one of the girls, “I told a close friend about it. How could I imagine she was going to tell every soul about it! This certainly aggravated the problem and I was being pointed at. But when I told mom about it, what a relief! It was as if the problem had dissolved already! I immediately felt stronger with mom on my side.”
The women thanked us for the session on this particularly sensitive topic. It was necessary, they pointed out, to educate adolescent boys and girls about the importance of informing the parents of all the problems they face because the latter are more truly concerned about their children than anybody else.
At the end of the session, presents and sweets were offered to the beneficiaries.
A women’s session: An awareness and medical support session was held in coordination with the Centre for Rural Development in the presence of the doctor. The women were welcomed and acquainted with each other. Then we told the women about the 16-day anti-GBV campaign and the reason why it was launched, telling them the story of the three girls who were victims of violence. Then the topic of the session proper—early marriage—was tackled. We distributed a questionnaire to the women with several questions related to the topic, such as: What is the appropriate age for marriage for both girls and boys? What is meant by “early marriage”? What are the negative physical and psychological effects on girls who marry under 18? Etc. Then the doctor elaborated, first on the physical consequences of early marriage in terms of health, then on its psychological consequences. Causes and factors that increase early marriage in our communities were discussed at length, as well as the appropriate solutions, using the problem/solution analysis tree.
A woman shared a personal experience: “We were in Lebanon at the time of the war. My parents worried that I could be raped because cases of rape increased tremendously at the time, so they married me off at 12. Then we returned to Syria. At 18 I had already 3 children, not knowing how to deal with them, because all my thinking was about playing and going back to school. Today I feel extremely tired, physically and psychologically. I would never let my daughter marry before she achieves all her dreams and completes her education.”
At the end of the session we thanked the women for their participation and distributed leaflets related to the subject.
A session for adolescent boys and girls: An awareness session was held on gender discrimination at school. During implementation of activities on the topic, male adolescents were favoured and encouraged to succeed, while girls were completely neglected. When asked about how they felt during the activity, the girls said they felt irritated. So, we explained the concept of gender discrimination. At that point, they opened up and told us that discrimination between males and females is deeply rooted in our communities, that society favours males because of the old customs and traditions that promote gender discrimination. To this we answered that males and females are complementary, that they play integrated roles in all spheres of life, that women are capable of success even in domains that have been socially restricted to men, that a woman is fully capable of work to secure a decent living for her children and family.
At the end of the session, we asked each of the participants to sum up the conclusions in a few words, which they did, and presents were offered to the girls!
A women’s session: The awareness session for women started with an icebreaker. Some of the participants were senior women who were willingly following literacy courses. They believed in their right to education, of which they had been deprived when still young because of the ignorance and unwillingness of their parents who would not let them complete their education simply because they were females. Then we emphasized the importance of education for girls and women’s ability to realize their ambitions, even in old age. Education was crucially important for women, not only for their personal flowering, but because it contributes to building an educated generation. Finally, we thanked the women for their perseverance and said that we were very proud of their capacities.
“I felt really ashamed when my grandson asked me to teach him and I couldn’t read the word,” said one of the senior women. “So, I inquired about literacy courses, enrolled and learned to read and write.”
The women also told us about another woman, now in her fifties, who, when she was young, was forced to quit school at grade 9 and marry. Today she married all of her children after insisting that they should all get a decent education. She, however, kept her dream alive, fully determined to realize it. So, she took the secondary school certificate exams, passed with an honorable score and went to college. Her self-confidence increased after her continuous success in realizing her ambition.
At the end of the session we thanked the women and offered them some presents.
An event at the Cultural Center: An event was carried out in Salkhad, which included a motor activity not only for the children of the CP group, but also children from the schools and kindergartens of the area. The activity consisted in rhythmic dancing to the tunes of songs about women’s rights. The event started by welcoming the participants and introducing SSSD, the Community Centre and the services offered thereat. Then the children performed a series of motor activities and a drama sketch about the rights of women, particularly women’s right to work, in front of an enthusiastic audience consisting mainly of the parents of the participating children, the local community, IDPs and school teachers. The audience’s reaction was positive after defining women’s rights through these activities.
At the conclusion of the event we thanked the audience and participants and explained the purposes for the campaign.
NB: Some activities were cancelled due to bad weather conditions, such as the football match, the afforestation activity, the sitting in silence and the candlelit march.