|Date: Sep 24, 2019|
|Source: The Daily Star|
|Regional campaign aims to stop violence against women|
|Abby Sewell| The Daily Star|
BEIRUT: Activists in Beirut announced Monday the launch of a new regional campaign to fight violence against women.
The EU-funded campaign includes nine civil society organizations in seven countries in the Middle East and North Africa region. In addition to Lebanon, the others include Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia.
The campaign is named “Shu Ostik/Ostak” - “What’s Your Story?” in English - and is addressed to both a male and female subject.
It includes a website, ostik.org, which will compile statistics on violence against women and information on legislation in the region, as well as asking women who have survived gender-based violence to share their stories.
“We have always been working on the cause of violence against women from a national and local framework,” said Hayat Mirshad, head of communications and campaigning at the Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering, one of the NGOs taking part in the campaign. “We felt that now there is a need to raise this struggle to a regional level.”
The idea of the campaign was to ask women to share their stories, while at the same time challenging men to look at the role they play in the issue of gender-based violence, Mirshad said.
“The idea behind the hashtag was that we’re always talking about the cause of violence against women as if it’s a cause that’s separate from the general context, from the community, from the law, and even from the men who, in most cases, are the sources of the violence,” she said.
Maya al-Khoury, an adviser to Violette Safadi, minister of state for the economic empowerment of women and youth, said at the event that in Lebanon “there is a great deficiency in legislation to protect women from violence.”
Among other issues, she cited the lack of laws to prevent child marriage and marital rape, to address workplace harassment, and to give Lebanese women married to non-Lebanese men the right to pass on their nationality to their children.
A slate of proposed laws addressing an array of women’s rights issues are set to be discussed at a special parliamentary session in March 2020.
Rein Nieland, a representative of the EU delegation to Lebanon, said the campaign could “count on the continuous support of the EU.”
Violence against women, he said, is “one of the greatest injustices of our time, which touches all countries, communities and families and is one of the biggest barriers to sustainable development.”