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Assisting survivors of gender-based violence in Lebanon

13 Dec 2019


Cyrine Othman, a social worker with Al Missaq in Baalbek, leads an awareness-raising session on GBV. Credit: OCHA Lebanon/Sebastian Brandt

Gender-based violence (GBV) continues to be seriously underfunded in humanitarian settings, although it has received increasing attention in recent years. In Lebanon, for example, the Lebanon Humanitarian Fund (LHF), one of OCHA’s Country-based Pooled Funds, is funding an increasing number of GBV projects.

One such project, implemented by the local organization the MENA Organization for Services, Advocacy, Integration & Capacity Building (MOSAIC), targets GBV survivors, specifically those who belong to some of the most vulnerable groups in Lebanon, such as the LGBTI community. The non-governmental organization (NGO) seeks to ensure that those affected receive legal counselling and psychosocial support. For refugees in this community, the risk of violence or abuse is even higher than average. As Lebanon has the highest per-capita concentration of refugees in the world, MOSAIC works with both host communities and refugees.  

Pia Dabbak, who works as a social worker at MOSAIC, notes that since violence can lead to different kinds of consequences, people are affected in different ways. “There are many possible impacts of GBV and, psychologically, it can come out in many ways – trauma, anxiety, fear, depression,” she says. “These survivors always need support, no matter what happened.”

Pia Dabbak, a social worker with MOSAIC, fills out one of the forms used to follow up on cases. Credit: OCHA Lebanon/Sebastian Brandt

Among those most vulnerable are transgender persons. Charbel Maydaa, the director of MOSAIC, notes that transgender persons suffer violence from a variety sources, ranging from partners to sex traffickers. As a local NGO, MOSAIC seeks to empower local communities through knowledge on such topics as sexuality, gender, discrimination and abuse, with the aim of having an impact beyond immediate assistance to GBV survivors.

Working with GBV is not only about responding to violence, but also about preventing violence in the first place. In Baalbek, in north-eastern Lebanon, for example, LHF funding helps the local organization Al Missaq with community awareness, training of local actors and direct support to GBV survivors. 

“Child marriage is not uncommon in Baalbek, and it is socially accepted, especially among Syrian refugees,” says Cyrine Othman, a social worker with Al Missaq. One reason for this is widespread poverty among Syrian refugee households, which leads to parents resorting to drastic solutions to ensure what they see as a more stable future for their daughters.

The participants at many Al Missaq meetings are girls and women between the ages of 14 and 30. Ghadir, a 24-year-old from Baalbek, says she knows girls who were married when they were only children, including all too many who have suffered domestic violence. “One of my friends got married when she was 16, and she is often beaten by her husband,” she says. “If that happens, she can either go to her parents for help, or to an organization that works with these issues.”

While these are difficult issues to tackle, the women and girls who attend the meetings believe there have been positive developments in the area. One of them is Sana, 19, who is concerned but at the same time hopeful. “Early marriage has a negative effect on girls and their health. The girl loses her opportunity to fulfil her dreams. But it is getting better here,” she says.