Refugees learn to become advocates against Gender Based Violence

UNICEF Lebanon partners with KAFA – a Lebanese NGO focusing on the creation of a society free of gender-based violence (GBV) and discrimination – to grow refugees’ knowledge and resilience

Simon Balsom
Boy smiling.
Fouad Choufany
06 November 2017

UNICEF and the Canadian Government empower Syrian refugee children in Lebanon to advocate against Gender Based Violence

 

A conflict of untold casualties, the war in Syria and the mass displacement of its people has also created numerous unlikely heroes. Amidst countless levels of adversity there are as many tales of positivity and encouragement. Today we’re in Lebanon’s Beqaa valley, at the Saadnayel Informal Settlement - a temporary home to many Syrian refugees.

Here, UNICEF Lebanon has partnered with KAFA – a Lebanese NGO focusing on the creation of a society free of gender-based violence (GBV) and discrimination. Together, and with funding from the Canadian government, they’re delivering tailored community-based PSS sessions to children and youths aged 12-18 years old, and providing them with the necessary support to help grow their knowledge and resilience.

“We’ve succeeded in making children who did not feel valued much more confident of themselves, much more confident of their abilities, and far more knowledgeable of their rights”.

Kids sitting on the ground listening.
Fouad Choufany

A key energy around us now is being generated by 14-year-old Omar. Mature beyond his years, Omar became a mentor to his peers after taking part in KAFA’s GBV awareness program.

He’s keen to talk, and his vibrantly smiling face belies the harsher events of his young life.

“I’m Omar” he announces, “from KAFA. We’re working to protect children from harassment and intimidation, and to raise awareness of the importance of confronting discrimination and violence. We’re aiming to strengthen each individual’s capability to be aware and to teach them how better to take care of themselves.”

Very swiftly we see that there’s little doubt in the efficacy of the program. We sit in on one of his sessions and watch as he splits his group in to two circles, asking them each the same question, “Imagine you’re in a village, and there’s a hurricane coming. What three things do you value highly, what would you choose to take with you and save?”

Naturally enough, “mama” and “papa” are at the top of everyone’s list – as is a peaceful place to live. Equally so, however, both groups vocalize what – through KAFA’s program – they have learned to appreciate as basic rights within every just and civilized society – equality, education, fair-play and the outlawing of child marriage.

 

Kids playing at KAFA center
Fouad Choufany

Omar tells me,“We’ve succeeded in making children who did not feel valued much more confident of themselves, much more confident of their abilities, and far more knowledgeable of their rights”.

Close by is Ahmed, a trainer who helped train Omar together with a large number of Omar’s peers. He says, “We’ve worked on improving the skills of our adolescents, and on enhancing their reasoning, their processing of information and their ability to judge things. Importantly, we’ve impressed upon them that it’s okay to make mistakes when talking about these things - because this is part of every debate and key to enabling them to express their opinion.”

Across the camp at community level, the program has successfully delivered messages in spontaneous ways to a large segment of its children. “We have achieved many goals,” continued Ahmed, “yet our ambitions remain higher still. We aim to reach every child and to further spread awareness about gender-based violence and child protection. We are determined to achieve these goals, and we will succeed.”

 

Children participating at home lecture
Fouad Choufany

It is one thing to be educated on such matters, but something quite remarkable when this education is provided from within your own community.

That KAFA’s UNICEF-supported community based PSS and awareness training sessions for adolescents have been quite so successful is due to engagement with the likes of Omar, and the value it places on learning through peer-group role-play. By sparking debate amongst themselves, Saadnayal’s children and adolescents have learned the importance of their voice and how to reject what they know to be wrong.

Omar’s voice may only be one, but through his enthusiastic tutelage he is able to pass the program’s message to many.

 

Children gathering and smiling to camera
Fouad Choufany