Beirut, March 9, 2017 – The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through the Lebanon Reforestation Initiative (LRI), celebrated International Women’s Day by organizing a conference entitled “Women Champions Sharing Stories” as part of the project’s #PlantYourChange national awareness campaign for this year. The campaign, which started at the end of February, included TV and radio interviews, as well as a social media awareness video featuring five Lebanese public female figures. These prominent females are Ms. Zeina Daccache – Executive Director and Drama Therapist at Catharsis Lebanese Center for Drama Therapy; Ms. Brigitte Chelebian – Attorney at Law and Founder/Director of Justice Without Frontiers; Mrs. May El Khalil – Founder and President of Beirut Marathon Association; Mrs. Carole Feghali - General Secretary at La Phenicienne Insurance; and Mrs. Nicole Gemayel, Head of Municipality of Bekfaya – Mhaydsse and founder of Bi Clean.
The event was held in the presence of the Minister of State for Women Affairs, Mr. Jean Oghassabian, represented by Mrs. Nada Makkeh, USAID/Lebanon Economic Growth Office Director Mrs. Cybill Sigler, and Heads of Municipalities and community members. Mrs. Makkeh highlighted some of the Ministry’s goals of achieving equal civil, economic and political rights for women, strengthening their role in sustainable development, eliminating stereotypes against women and encouraging the involvement of women in environmental activities. Mrs. Sigler emphasized women’s role in social, economic, and environmental development and stressed the importance of women’s empowerment to lead social change.
More than 100 people attended the conference, including various NGOs and cooperatives focused on women’s issues, members of the Corridor Planning Committees, representatives from private sector companies and students. All were inspired by Beth Pendleton, the Acting Associate Chief for the U.S. Forest Service, who shared her support for women’s roles in natural resource management with a short video message and by the powerful stories shared by women champions from LRI and the USAID-funded Lebanon Industry Value Chain Development project. They highlighted how they are planting seeds of change in their communities on the social and environmental levels.
LRI’s 2017 national awareness campaign highlighted the need to reach gender parity, engage women in their communities and empower them to change behavior and attitudes of communities towards protecting the environment, and specifically, reforestation. Implemented by the United States Forest Service, this activity will contribute to the International Women’s Day campaign #beboldforchange and accelerate gender parity.