FQ Global Pack: How the Refugee Crisis Is Affecting Women in Lebanon and What We Can Do To Help
Lebanon is currently facing what the World Bank says could be “the worst financial collapse since the mid-1800s.” During the last two years, the country’s economy has been grappling from the double blow of the pandemic and the 2020 Beirut explosion that left 217 dead. Today, its currency has lost more than 90% of its value, and unemployment numbers have skyrocketed with more than half of the Lebanese population living in poverty.
It’s easy to read statistics like these and disregard the catastrophic implications on humanity. In real time, these statistics translate to food prices that have nearly quadrupled and abounding medicine shortages. Wait times for fuel are hours long in lines that wrap around blocks. A week’s worth of groceries might cost a family a month’s worth of income.
How can Lebanese women abroad help women who are still in the country? Will the women who have fled be able to safely return? What happens to the women who stay in Lebanon?
To answer these questions, the Female Quotient recently gathered more than 30 women from Lebanon during the FQ Global Pack, a virtual dinner series where local leaders shared what they’re seeing on the ground and how we can work together to create solutions to help.
Prior to the economic downturn and the pandemic, Lebanon had one of the highest overall gender gaps in the world, ranking 145 out of 153 countries. In addition, the nation’s labor laws limited welfare benefits for women, offered no sexual harassment protection and lacked health benefits such as maternity leave.
Today, women and girls in Lebanon have been forced to leave their jobs, their homes and their lives behind. They are unable to find menstrual supplies and many have resorted to reusing the same product for a longer period of time. Amongst refugee communities, women are the most food insecure, and many face the increased risk of gender-based violence and sexual exploitation.
During the Global Pack dinner, we discussed with Lebanese women what they want the nation to be like for the next generation and action steps for what we can do today.
Here are some takeaways from the conversation:
“What I’ve seen is that this [crisis] could be incredibly damaging to our psyche and to our self-trust. At the same time, it can also be an opportunity for creativity and solution-oriented thinking. We get to choose so.” — Chérine Kurdi, Women’s Leadership Expert
“Each of us on our own, even if we have the loudest voices, might not be able to make as much impact as if we really continue to grow together.” — Raneem Mourad, Managing Director at Kashida
“At every moment when people come together with the same spirit, with a similar goal and with a shared, strong and powerful vision, beautiful things can emerge. It’s the power of collaboration. Collaborative thinking sparks creativity. Collaborative work can win battles. Battles cannot be won without collaboration and collaborative mindsets — they unleash the potential that is within us and that is within the people around us.” — Alexandra Kodjabachi, CEO & Founder, PersED, Author, Public Speaker
“I very often use the tagline start ‘where you stand,’ and I think that’s a really kind of contagious message to spread. It’s the idea that if you want to do right by women and girls, you can do it right where you are in your home, your neighborhood, your community, your street, your school your workplace, your office, your public office wherever — whatever space you occupy you can take that and make it feminist.” — Lina AbiRafeh, Executive Director of Arab Institute for Women
“I do think that, when we start working for the cause and not the applause, we find our life purpose — to make a difference and live a life of impact. When women empower each other, things happen. Women in Lebanon are fighting countless inequalities. Women who are educated are leaving Lebanon and going to other countries because they’re not being valued. We have a role and responsibility not to just be mentors but to be allies to them, to open real opportunities and give people a seat at that table. We have to send the elevator back down for the next generation coming up behind us.” — Mandy Sanghera, International human rights activist
“Women [in Lebanon] are in survival mode, and they’ve been there for so long. As a nation, we have a lot of ego. Asking for help is not something ingrained in our culture. We don’t want to ask for help. We don’t think that we need help. We think we’re capable of doing this by ourselves because that’s how we were taught.” — Lynn Mounzer, Founder and CEO of GenDev Consulting
“We need creative collaboration, but the most important thing is women in leadership. We have 4.9% women in the Parliament, and they are all coming from political elite families. Then, we have 5.1% women who are in the local field like in the municipalities. The numbers are really scary because we don’t have a quota or any rules. They don’t even want to work on laws regarding this, but we can vote. It’s about voting, participating and being a part of the change. If we want to work on policies, we need more women present and making decisions — women in every single field and political fields. When they make the laws, they make changes.” — Gina Youssef
If you want to help and provide resources, you can find more information here:
The International Rescue Committee provides support to Syrian refugees struggling to get by in Lebanon and the resource-strapped Lebanese communities hosting them. They also provided resources in response to the explosion in Beirut in 2020.
In partnership with the United Nations in Lebanon, the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund (WPHF) is launching six grassroots projects to enhance women’s participation in the Beirut Port Explosion’s response and recovery process.
Save the Children is providing for basic needs throughout Lebanon – including education, protection, shelter, food security, livelihood opportunities and health care.
Join our Global Pack — The Female Quotient is uniting the world through the power of women through our Global Pack, a global community of change-makers. The highly curated, all-virtual program is built around the power of connection, bringing together executives, influencers and women who are leading remarkable work in their countries. Through virtual dinner parties hosted in more than 60 countries, FQ Global Pack offers a first-of-its-kind space for collaboration, conversation and action. Following our FQ Global Pack dinners where we have hosted 50 country dinners so far, we are planning the FQ Global Exchange in March for International Women’s Day (IWD).
CC BY Mary Madigan