The conflict in Syria has had important repercussions for neighbouring countries, including Lebanon. This small nation of 4.4 million people has received about 1.5 million refugees, including more than 1 million from Syria. This means that one of every four resident is a refugee, which makes Lebanon the country with the most refugees per capita in the world. This situation puts significant pressure on the country’s resources and generates ever-increasing tensions between the different communities living there.
House of Peace (HOPe), a peace-building organization supported by Development and Peace, works to build a solid foundation of peace for the future of Syrian and Lebanese societies. At HOPe, women play a central role both as project leaders and as participants. Three of the seven HOPe staff members are women, and 70% of participants in their activities are women.
HOPe provides social peace-building workshops in Syria and Lebanon for local community groups and humanitarian organizations. The workshops are designed to ease social tensions and establish pathways towards peaceful co-existence and reconciliation. Participants gain new perspectives and develop community-based initiatives.
The workshops also give women a platform to express themselves, to use their analytical skills, and to overcome social barriers and stereotypes. Women leave the workshops with new knowledge and skills which empowers them to initiate projects in their community where they engage with people they might usually avoid, which contributes to building social peace.
Rabia, a trainer working with HOPe, explains how the workshops change the perceptions that Syrian and Lebanese people have of each other:
“Before their participation in the workshop, a number of Syrian women did not believe that it was possible to develop good relationships with Lebanese women. Similarly, a good many Lebanese participants realized that their prejudices against Syrian women were unfounded. This is how fear and hatred gradually disappear. When the workshops come to an end, participants often keep in touch, visit each other and do activities together.”
By independently leading a project that requires skill, persistence and hard work, women become more aware of their own potential. Rabia emphasizes the transformative power of women in their communities:
“Women are drivers of change. When they influence their families and children, they influence society as a whole. Each member of the family influences the people around him or her, and so on. This is why women have an essential role to play in peacebuilding.”
Learn more about Rabia and her work here.