Nazira is a single woman from Aarsal, a rural village in northern Lebanon. As the sole provider for her extended family, Nazira first approached CRTD-A for economic skills training. Today she is president of the local women’s association.
Nazira is one of many women whose long-term engage- ment with CRTD-A has fostered a leadership practice that is non-hierarchal, participatory and communicative. In describing the effect of CRTD-A’s programs, Nazira says, “My colleagues who have children now have the confidence to negotiate childcare responsibilities with their husbands. We all realize that our involvement in public affairs is possible and much needed.”
Formed in 1999, CRTD-A holds a comprehensive vision of a thriving society in Lebanon and the Arab region at large — a vision that cannot be realized without women’s full participation. Yet despite progress in education and health, women in Lebanon are poorly represented in politics and only 23 percent of the formal economy.
To create circumstances that facilitate women’s political agency and economic independence, the group provides information, opportunities, skills training, and makes explicit the connection between grassroots women’s issues and macroeconomic policies in Lebanon and the region.
Some of the obstacles to rural women’s economic independence include constraints on women’s mobility, domination of “male middlemen”, inaccessible markets, and limited skills in client contacts and services. To overcome these barriers, the group trains rural women’s cooperatives that produce products such as soap and jam. To date, CRTD-A has helped 70 cooperatives to develop quality control, standardized packaging, and marketing skills. In addition, the group recently opened a market, the Namlyeh, in Beirut, where rural women collectively explore marketing opportunities, engage in negotiations with clients and suppliers, manage money and run an online version of Namlyeh.
Because the imbalance of power in the economic realm mirrors the imbalance in other arenas, CRTD-A has a vital public policy program, which includes an on-going nationality campaign, drafting a new nationality law, research and publications, organized sit-ins, protests, and engaging the media to mobilize mass support for women’s rights.
“When we started gathering and meeting, the men in the village used to make fun of us. I was told several times that nothing will come out of what we are doing and that we will soon get bored and close shop. Today, people want to have our opinion on everything that is taking place in the village.” — Nazira, participant
Year and stage of Global Fund investment in the Collective for Research and Training on Development-Action:
- $10,000 to support an economic rights training of rural women on economic agency and power.
- $15,000 to complete the final phase of the economic rights training.
- $1,300 to organize a grantee meeting in Lebanon.
- $80,000 for three-years Now or Never grant to support the Gender, Economy and Trade: Rural Women Cooperatives and Economic Rights program, that aimed to contribute to the economic empowerment and independence of women and girls in rural women, transform gender relations in the house and community, and create sustainable economic alternative practices and policies.
- $15,000 emergency support for 22 internally displaced persons’ centers serving women and children in Beirut in the aftermath of Israeli war on Lebanon.
- $17,000 for an Arab regional convening on gender and trade that brought together activists and trainers from six countries to discuss strategies on “how to identify and confront challenges facing women and vulnerable groups” with regards to current and future trade agreements and policies.
- $25,000 to support the participation of nine activists from five countries, members of the Nationality Campaign, in the AWID Forum in South Africa, in November 2008 and to rent a display booth to sell and promote its products created through economic empowerment programs.