[Individual articles from the Fall 2019 issue of Intersections will be posted on this blog each week. The full issue can be found on MCC’s website.]
For the past three years, the Lebanese Organization for Studies and Training (LOST), in partnership with MCC, has been implementing one of its largest protection projects in the area of Baalbeck-Hermel. Entitled “She Matters,” this project aims at providing trauma and psychosocial support for Syrian refugee and vulnerable Lebanese women. LOST faced several challenges in introducing the project to the Baalbeck-Hermel area. In order to ensure the success of the project, LOST staff needed to address several protection-related concerns in order to ensure the safety of project staff and participants as well as gain the trust of the communities to which the participants belonged.
The security situation in Baalbeck-Hermel can be very tense, with tribal conflicts arising at any moment alongside ongoing internal conflicts emerging from political tensions. LOST therefore took the necessary steps to ensure the safety of participants and staff at project sites near conflict zones, adjusting the schedule of activities to safer times and including transportation for beneficiaries. Additionally, in some areas project participants faced the risk of arrest while going to and from project activities because they lacked proper registration in Lebanon. In this case, LOST contacted the Lebanese Security Forces in order to facilitate the movement of project participants, explaining the benefit of the project to the region as a whole and thus avoiding harm to project participants while also strengthening relationships with local authorities. LOST also created an organization-wide protection from sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA) policy that included confidential and private mechanisms by which project participants can raise concerns and submit complaints about the project and about the actions of LOST staff.
When LOST first introduced this psychosocial support project for Syrian refugee and vulnerable Lebanese women to the Baalbek-Hermel region, the husbands of potential project participants in most villages initially rejected the initiative. Men expressed strong discomfort with the idea of their spouses attending the sessions, fearing that the project would have a negative effect on their families. Based on the recommendations of female participants, LOST worked to include men in the project. In some cases, LOST provided incentives for participation, including integrating these men into other LOST projects, such as cash for work programs, food for training programs and other livelihood interventions. These proved to be beneficial to the men and they were then more accepting of their wives’ participation in the project activities. LOST mitigated the instances of men dropping out of activities in order to work by taking into consideration their schedules and conducting trainings on a day off or even after their return from day labor. LOST has also begun holding some awareness sessions for the spouses of female participants so that they also receive some of the same trauma and health awareness information as the women. The more men have been involved, the more the women have benefited from the trainings, as they use their new knowledge to improve the health and wellbeing of their families. Through several mitigation actions, LOST was successfully able to overcome all the challenges that arose while implementing the “She Matters” project in Baalbek-Hermel. The project has been able to empower women by building their capacity to have better, safer and more honorable and dignified lives through workshops about safe health and hygiene practices, family planning, first aid and childcare. Through its psychosocial support activities, the project has shown that trauma healing is essential for regaining the composure needed to move forward in life. The results have included resiliency for Syrian refugee and vulnerable Lebanese women through improved and strengthened relationships within their families and the broader community.
Rabih Allam is a design, monitoring and evaluation coordinator with the Lebanese Organization for Studies and Training (LOST), an MCC partner.
Inter-Agency Standing Committee. “The Gender Handbook for Humanitarian Action.” IASC, 2017. Available at https://interagencystandingcommittee.org/system/files/2018-iasc_gender_handbook_for_humanitarian_action_eng_0.pdf
Lebanese Organization for Studies and Training: https://lostlb.org/