World Bank listing: Ghida Anani, a woman making a difference

An interview conducted with Ghida Anani by Annahar.
by Zeina Nasser English Zeina_w_Nasser

13 April 2018 | 15:01

Source: by Annahar

Behind the tough role I play, there is an extremely sensitive heart that can never compromise injustice or human pain, says ABAAD Founder Ghida Anani (Handout photo)

On March 26, 2018, the World Bank listed Lebanese entrepreneur Ghida Anani, ABAAD Founder & Director, as one of 10 Inspiring Women Entrepreneurs Making a Difference across MENA.  

The following is an interview conducted with Ghida Anani by Annahar.

What does this listing mean to you?

Well, this kind of recognition, specifically by the World Bank, gives me additional faith that the world can hear the pulse of social activism and that change can actually happen.

Yet, this listing is also a greater responsibility to never fail women and children affected by violence, whom we are daily serving and will always be standing for.

Why do you think they chose you to be one of the 10 inspiring Women Entrepreneurs Making a Difference across MENA out of many other women? 

It is always hard to speak about oneself. But one thing I actually believe was vital and key throughout my career so far is credibility and passion. They say, to succeed you need to love what you do, but I also say: And what you do needs to love you back as well.

One essential principle as well for the engagement in social entrepreneurial and the social field is to ensure bridging the division between academia and activism. In other terms, social sciences and public health theories should be at the basis of planning and guiding in our work.

In 2009, Anani was a guest speaker at the UNSG press conference on the occasion of the International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women. (Handout Photo)

Tell us more about yourself.

I am a medical social worker and clinical counselor, from Kounine, South of Lebanon. I started my career as a social worker at the Lebanese Council to Resist Violence against Women (LECORVAW), and then co-founded along with a pool of activists the association KAFA, where I acted as Head of the Ending Child Sexual Abuse Unit and Head of the Engaging Men and Ending Violence against Women program.

I am an assistant professor at the Faculty of Public Health at the Lebanese University and an activist in the field of gender-based violence, and I have a number of studies and articles, training kits, and community educational materials, in Lebanon and the MENA region around this subject. In 2009, I was a guest speaker at the UNSG press conference on the occasion of the International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women.

In 2008, I received the Excellence in Collaborative Teaching Award from the American University of Beirut. In June 2011, I founded and continued to manage ABAAD (Dimensions); Resource Centre for Gender Equality, which is a UN ECOSOC accredited lead gender-focused organization in Lebanon and throughout the MENA region and which was granted “WOMANITY Award.”

In 2014, I was selected for Women in Diplomacy School by the Italian Society for International Organization and the Italian government and was awarded in the same year the “Women Leadership Achievement Award,” which is an award attributed to outstanding Women Professionals/Leaders who have the vision, flair, acumen and professionalism to demonstrate excellent leadership and ethical managing skills in an organization, making changes and achieving results.

I have led a number of public opinion campaigns, notably the latest #Undress522 national campaign, calling upon abolishing the article 522 from the Lebanese Penal Code, which received the “Women Rights Award” from the Beirut Bar Association and Avenir Liban, and an honorary Award by the Lebanese Canadian University in March 2017.

In 2018, I was honored as part of the program “Icon of Pioneering” and “Leaders from the Land of Cedars” besides a number of Lebanese innovative leaders in different sectors.

Protesters against Article 522 take part in 14th annual Beirut Marathon on 13 November (AFP Photo)

How did it all start?

It started with a disappointment honestly, from civil society organizations’ ways of working!

Therefore, I decided in 2011 to establish a “model” organization, putting into practice public health approaches, through applying inside out the right-based and results-based approaches, and applying internally what it preaches externally in the field of gender equality and ending gender based violence.

Tell us more about ABAAD.

In 2011, ABAAD began with a modest office surrounded by a breezy and refreshing garden, strategically located between Beirut and Mount Lebanon in Furn El Chebbak.

ABAAD is a non-profit, non-politically affiliated, non-religious civil association founded with the aim of promoting sustainable social and economic development in the MENA region through equality, protection, and empowerment of marginalized groups, especially women.

ABAAD comprises of a dynamic pool of resources, human rights activists, lawyers, experts in their fields, social workers, and researchers that are all dedicated to achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment.

ABAAD is the co-chair of the National Technical Task Force to End GBV against Women and Girls, which has been chaired by the Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs in Lebanon since 2012. ABAAD gained a special consultative status with ECOSOC in 2016.

Today ABAAD has 137 dedicated full time staff members working on a daily basis; and it engaged so far with more than 68 donors and partner organizations in various development and humanitarian programs, to promote gender equality and ending gender based violence in Lebanon.

What challenges did you face while establishing ABAAD?

Frankly speaking, I did not really face challenges per say in establishing ABAAD, maybe due to my cumulative experience, network and reputation in this field.

But I would have to say though that some challenges came actually from feminists in Lebanon themselves at the beginning in questioning the “new approaches” ABAAD was trying to test or use in this field; using a positive psychological approach, reforming systems from within, and dialoguing with those opposing the cause.

Which women in the world inspire you? Why?

The German-born diarist Annelies Marie known as "Anne" Frank. For me, she is always a source of inspiration.

I read and repeatedly read Anne Frank's diary whnever I hear about the atrocity of a crime against women and children; and it is always a source of encouragement for me.

Her struggle against Nazism at her days is similar to our daily struggle against patriarchy. Nazism and patriarchy, as systems and their related beliefs are patently false, and because they were, and will always be, challenged by the likes of Anne Frank, they are bound to fail.

The German-born diarist Annelies Marie known as "Anne" Frank.

How are women and men you are targeting through ABAAD programs responding to the NGO's approach?

They are very receptive, and surprisingly as it may be to many, the change we are witnessing in men’s attitude at the ABAAD Men Center, which is a clinic using engendered psychotherapy with men with abusive behaviors, is quite inspiring and encouraging to pursue our fight and mission.

Even men policy makers, the most so-called “conservative” ones, like parliamentarians and religious leaders, were so receptive to the constructive positive dialogue and shown substantial enrollment in our fight!

In 2009, Anani was a guest speaker at the UNSG press conference on the occasion of the International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women. (Handout Photo)

What is your insight on the human rights and women's rights progress in the past years?

Much has been achieved so far with the tireless efforts of women organizations and the cost that many women and children paid with their lives all along the way.

Many achievements were done on the level of legal reform, and maybe the utmost success can be witnessed with the raised awareness of women and the increased disclosure about violations of their rights.

However, for Lebanon, still the road is quite long for strengthening and activating women and children protection systems through ensuring quality services for victims while preserving their dignity and respecting their choices.

How does the future of ABAAD look like to you?

I see ABAAD becoming an international CSO, and a referential resource center in the field of gender equality and combating violence against women and children.

Is there a side of you that people can’t see?

I guess that people do not know about many sides of my personality, because of my status quo in my work. I am an artist; I play the piano and paint (carbon painting). I also love cooking and like to take care of my parents and my brother’s family.

Behind the tough role I play, there is an extremely sensitive heart that can never compromise injustice or human pain. I am extremely passionate towards what I do in my daily life.

Just like everyone else, I surely had many tough life experiences, on both the professional and personal levels, that left many scars as a daily reminder to never surrender, never lose hope, and most importantly, never lose faith!

Ghida Anani with her nephew. (Handout photo)

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