BEIRUT: Lina Abirafeh made her youthful entry into the world of gender and women issues at the age of 14 when she wrote a school essay on female genital mutilation.
30 years later, she found herself being named one of the 100 most influential people in gender policy by Apolitical, an international platform for government.
Born to a Lebanese father and a Palestinian mother, Abirafeh, PhD, spent decades of her life addressing gender issues in development and humanitarian settings and studying gender-based violence in emergency setting-conflict, post-conflict, and natural disasters.
“When I was younger, my family told me that my compassion for this subject is nice but, it is not a platform I can build a career in,” she told Annahar. “Fast-forward a bit in time and here we are, the subject became way more than a job, it’s a commitment for life.”
Abirafeh is currently the Director of the Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World at the Lebanese American University. She considers herself a descendent of a family that carries a history of strong and empowered women. “I grew up in a family that was progressive without knowing it and feminist without labeling themselves that way,” said Abirafeh. “I was taught by my dad that financial independence is the most important thing for women.”
Abirafeh did not limit her career ambition to Lebanon. She travelled with her expertise to various corners of the world and worked on gender-based topics in over 20 countries including Papua New Guinea, Afghanistan, Nepal, Central African Republic, Haiti, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Conflict, poverty, and patriarchy are only a few of the numerous obstacles Abirafeh observed women had to face in these countries. In hard times where she felt like giving up, Abirafeh absorbed inspiration from the young feminist movements, organizations, and people running on their own passion, fuel, and energy to keep on battling against all odds.
“If they are not discouraged, I am shall not be discouraged as well,” she said. “They deserve to get the best out of me. Although I might not know their language or be a native from their country, I will do whatever I can to help.”
Aside from researching the effects of gender-focused international aid in conflict and post-conflict contexts, Abirafeh has already published two books: “Gender and International Aid in Afghanistan: The Politics and Effects of Intervention,” and “Lessons from Gender Focused International Aid in Post-conflict Afghanistan ... Learned?”
Earlier this week, Abirafeh was honored by Joseph G. Jabbra, President of LAU, for being chosen as one of the 100 most influential people in gender policy. She also received a heartwarming speech from Abdallah Malaeb, Student Body President, and Joumana Salloum Haddad, Lebanese journalist and author.
“As long as there are wonderful fighters like you, there will always be an ally for each woman,” said Haddad.
Welcome to “Naya”, the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment.
We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. Naya is devoted to women of all generations-Naya editor, Sally Farhat: Sally.firstname.lastname@example.org
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