Freedom from Patriarchy in Lebanon
“Men…can equally benefit from abandoning such out-dated and illogical societal impositions…as they too are victims of the patriarchal order that exists.”
Connection Point Director Yasmina Mrabet interviewed Ghida Anani, Founder and Director of the ABAAD-Resource Center for Gender Equality, and Anthony Keedi, Program Coordinator, Engaging Men & Boys in Gender Equality program at ABAAD. The interview addresses questions about the new ABAAD Men’s Center, which opened its doors last month in Beirut, Lebanon. Their responses are below.
What is the Men’s Center and why is it being launched?
It is our belief that we as a society in Lebanon and around the world must be aware of, and work to correct, the inequalities that exist as a result of societal gender roles for men and women. It is out of this belief that the International Medical Corps (IMC) and ABAAD Resource Center for Gender Equality launched the Men’s Center. This new center offers free, anonymous, and confidential individual psychological counseling for men with a special focus on targeting refugee populations residing in Lebanon, in addition to the general Lebanese population.
It is the hope of IMC and ABAAD that, through the services of the Men’s Clinic, men will have a space to begin questioning the unrealistic expectations of societal gender roles in their own lives, and how such expectations affect the well-being of those closest to them, including women. It is our hope that with the professional support of the Men’s Center staff, men will have the opportunity and resources to learn how to cope with stress in a manner that is best for them, best for their loved ones, and in line with Human Rights principles. A few examples of these would be: individual right to security of person and this is related to human being’s right to live a life free from violence and threats to their wellbeing in the home and in their community, and respect of individual right to freedom to all, equal rights in terms of marriage, and the right to education and equal access to knowledge and information between boys and girls.
What services is the Men’s center offering, and how will this help to meet the needs of Lebanese families and Lebanese society at large?
In addition to cost-free individual psychological counseling, we have a 24 hour hotline that will connect callers to the center’s psychologists. In addition to simply scheduling appointments, callers can call to inquire about the center and its services and learn more from a knowledgeable professional.
ABAAD has also conducted support groups for men and women, as well as stress and anger management workshops. Our intention is to create culturally sensitive and validated curriculums and methods for these workshops which we expect to become fixed services within the Men Center.
Given the patriarchal society in Lebanon, are men and families open to receiving the services of the ABAAD Men’s Center? Has there been any push back, and if so, how do you deal with that?
Thus far, the message has been very well received by the women and men in Lebanon. In fact, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
If we were to analyze why this has been the case, despite the patriarchal structure of the country, we would have to say that it is because of the positivity of the message. Like all of the work that ABAAD does, we believe that positive messages inspire people to question things within themselves and society, debate the pertinent issues, and act to make changes in the world around them. We uphold an unconditional positive regard for all people, and see our focus not as the individual coming to the center, but the behaviors of the individuals that come to the center. We are always aware that gender roles, as they have traditionally existed and endured in the Middle East, are a ‘double-edged sword’ for both men and women. Men suffer from these roles as well, and thus, can equally benefit from abandoning such out-dated and illogical societal impositions. We empathize with potential beneficiaries of the center, as they too are victims of the patriarchal order that exists.
Masculine gender roles often dictate that men should restrain from emotional expression, which is not conducive to a healthy psychological state or communication. Another example is the fact that men’s sense of value and self-worth are framed as being directly connected with their ability to acquire “power” in all its forms (money, security, etc.). These norms can result in the introduction of the use of violence to attain or sustain perceived “power,” and in many case, violence is even seen as a male “duty,” particularly in times of war and conflict. Men are also expected to carry the burden of most, if not all, financial needs of their families. By introducing concepts of partnership and equality, men can be freed of these unrealistic, and at times harmful, societal expectations.
It is this non-accusatory and positive outlook and message of the Men’s Center, and ABAAD as a whole, that we believe will lead to the acceptance of our initiatives and our cause of promoting and creating gender equality among men and women in Lebanon and the Middle East.
Do you work with the mainstream media to spread the word about this campaign? Are they open to it? And have you seen any positive results from the Media campaign, or witnessed changes in attitudes toward women in general?
Since its establishment, ABAAD has been working very closely with local, regional and international media. Upon the launch of the campaign, it generated so much attention and support from media (Radio stations, newspaper and TVs). Many media outputs have been documented so far and the interest continue even after 10 days from start of the campaign.
It is still too early to talk about the impact or change in attitude toward women, but at least we can state that we are observing a considerable increase in the number of calls from men—that is a great sign that the campaign reached them well, and positively, and that change is not impossible!
To learn more, check out the ABAAD Men’s Center TV Spot
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The views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Peace X Peace.