Every woman can be a peacebuilder. By defying and redefining the patriarchal definition of “peace”, she proves that no peace can be achieved if not everyone is included and involved. Whether at the grassroots level or at high-level security panels, she can contribute to peace processes and dialogues. By raising her voice, she paves the way for others willing to follow similar paths. She empowers them.
As every individual possessing distinct talents and skills, front line peace-building techniques take multiple shapes. Farah Wardani is a professional actress and psychologist who paves the way for using theatre for achieving social change in Lebanon. Strong and inspiring, Wardani visualizes theatre as the mirror of society in which the artistic encounter contributes to revealing existing conflicts in communities. Wardani defends theatre as “an alternative for public spaces, where people can meet and engender change”. She advocates for the potential of theatre as a tool for raising awareness, and revisiting memory through therapy. Additionally, it is a tool for empowerment and reconciliation, allowing individuals and communities to reimagine reality and promote change.
14 years after founding the theatre collective Laban لَبَنْ, Wardani has witnessed how theatre helped building bridges among population in areas where the civil war left deep divisions, women from different backgrounds or youth who were recruited by extremist movements.
Asked to offer a tip for new generations of women, Farah reminds:
“In arts and life, women were not involved in making war. It is our duty to build more resilient and peaceful communities, and the great news is that we have the power to do it, one women at a time.”, Farah Wardani.
While recognizing peacebuilding processes are more successful when women are involved, females’ exclusion from political negotiations and high-level reconciliation processes become a minor problem when they are compared to the record-levels of domestic violence. Lebanon’s recent compounded crises are exposing more women and girls to violence. The normalization of violence and lack of accountability particularly expose women in a country where gender norms and stereotypes justify inequality.
For more than 30 years, veteran community activist Hafiza Hawaili has been empowering underprivileged women and girls to engage in community-oriented activities and to have a voice in decision-making and leadership processes. As an advocate for violence prevention, Hawaili supervises the activities of nine Women Programmes Associations (WPA) located in Palestinian refugee camps across Lebanon to promote social cohesion. Improving infrastructure, organizing cultural events, sports, or community service are some of the projects she develops to help build trust and relationships among individuals and groups. As Hawaili points out, by supporting women “to advocate for their rights and needs can reduce the likelihood of conflict arising from gender discrimination and marginalization and therefore build stronger and more peaceful societies”.
“Your Voice and Actions Can Make a Difference!”, Hafiza Hawaili, community activist.
As a Gender Transformative Programming training, Raghida Hamieh heads a feminist battle towards achieving gender equality in humanitarian and development projects. For Hamieh, breaking gender norms that reinforce power imbalances and aggressive masculinity is a must to open doors to peaceful horizons. Through her trainings on Gender, Peace and Conflict, Raghida sheds the light on various forms of discrimination that women face daily, such as unequal pay, unequal employment opportunities, and reinforcing gender stereotypes through education. She emphasizes that gender equality should not be framed as a battle between men and women. On the contrary, this concept allows men, women and people with disabilities to achieve equal rights and opportunities.
“You have a treasure inside and that is enough to win the battles against patriarchy”, Raghida.Hamieh.
In Lebanon, where different narratives of the recent Civil War affect politics and daily life, the role of Non-Violent Comunication (NVC) experts like Rita Ayoub is vital to ensure openness and dialogue. Rita makes compatible her work on interfaith reconciliation with her practice of the NVC philosophy that suggests a shift in our language to be closer to peace. “I believe we are contributing to a more peaceful world by opening Non-Violent Communication (NVC) to children, parents, educators and all spectrums of society […] by helping them to connect to their feelings and emotions and to draw strategies to fulfill their needs. When I take into consideration my needs I will start caring also about the needs of the others and then it becomes contagious. It will be like a snowball!”, illustrates enthusiastically.
Ayoub, who dedicated the last decade to transmit Non-Violent Communication in Lebanon, Syria and the Arab World, confesses that NVC changed her life. “During the Lebanese Revolution, I organized circles with 30-40 participants who knew nothing about NVC. By only giving them the space and time to express their feelings and to be heard without judgements served as a very helpful restorative method.” Shifting the language can help us to be a step closer to peace. In order to transform the cycle of violence, Ayoub suggests connecting with our feelings and expressing our needs effectively by giving them names without judgement. It would thus be “a small step to connect to our needs and the needs of the others”.
“Give yourself the opportunity to connect and listen to your feelings as a part of you. They are the path to explore your met or unmet needs.”, Rita Ayoub.
Lebanon is a country in which women do not have the right to give their nationality to their children, where minors are still forced to marry, where some are prohibited from seeing their children, or where domestic workers are deprived from their passports and from their freedom of movement. Against this backdrop, it is crucial to distinguish female heroes of our current history and to continue investing in feminist peace. Women deserve to be seen, heard, and respected That is why, we, as forumZFD, chose to highlight the contributions of these women who are at the forefront of challenging the status quo at the grassroots level. Each of them has worked, and still is working, for peace in her own way.