USAID Celebrates International Women’s Day with Local Communities in Rachaya
In collaboration with the Union of Municipalities of Jabal Sheikh, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) celebrated International Women’s Day by supporting a seminar entitled “Engaging Women in Environmental Activities for Balanced Development.” This event is part of the $5 million USAID-funded Livelihoods in Forestry project that conserves and expands forests while enhancing economic benefits from forestry through the establishment of models for agroforestry and forest-related rural tourism. The seminar encourages gender-balanced engagement in environmental work, specifically forest management activities and is organized by the Lebanon Reforestation Initiative (LRI) NGO and local communities under the international theme #BalanceForBetter created to recognize the role of women in these fields.
USAID/Lebanon’s Economic Growth Office Director Dr. William Butterfield, Head of Jabal El Sheikh Union of Municipalities Seikh Saleh Bou Mansour, and LRI NGO Director Dr. Maya Nehme attended the event in addition to approximately 200 attendees including local communities, Heads and members of neighboring municipalities and local active women groups. During the event, LRI highlighted the results and gaps identified in a USAID-funded gender analysis conducted for the Rachaya region and shared recommendations and project plans to address identified gaps. Five panelists also shared their experiences to inspire attendees and stress the importance of gender equality for society, the environment, and economy.
Seikh Saleh Bou Mansour and his wife Sheikha Rana highlighted their personal experience in working towards #BalanceForBetter at home and in their community. They explained how their work encourages a gender-balanced community through the cooperation of municipalities and how it empowers women to be active in their society. Mr. Marwan Debian, the Head of the Municipality of Mdoukha village, focused on the importance of having a gender balanced municipal board and how this has helped their community make balanced decisions. The panel also included Dr. Rana Macroun, member from the Lebanese League for Women in Business, who briefly discussed the important role of women in the economy, and Mrs. Fatima Hammoud, Community Engagement Specialist in Rachaya, who emphasized to youth the importance of overcoming perceived gender barriers to reach their goals.
Dr. Butterfield emphasized USAID’s commitment to a gender-balanced community in reference to International Women’s Day. He said, “All USAID activities focus on the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment because we know that this is the key to development.” Dr. Nehme emphasized the recommendations and results of the LRI research in the Rachaya region on gender inequality and gender gaps, as she stated, “the NGO will continue to support and encourage women to be more active in forestry-related activities as it will generate income and improve their lives.”