Story of Impact: Women Leaders in Lebanon

Building Back Beirut

After the shocking explosion in Beirut, we have been reaching out to many of our network members in Lebanon. COVID-19 and an ongoing economic crisis in the country have compounded this latest crisis, as our Network grapples with injured and lost loved ones, destruction of their homes and businesses and the emotional trauma of the explosion. But in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges, the women leaders in our network continue to provide for their communities through local action.

This week, Vital Voices heard from nearly 50 network members from the region, staff and supporters from around the world. We are so inspired by stories of leaders moving quickly to take action and connect those in need with resources. It reminds us, yet again, of the readiness with which members of the Vital Voices Global Leadership Network approach new challenges and sacrifice everything they can to offer support for those around them. And we’re bringing you this special edition of the VINE so you can hear updates directly from the women leaders on the ground in Lebanon who are putting their personal trauma aside to rehabilitate and begin to rebuild their communities.

We are inspired by the quick work and mobilization these women are undertaking, and while we can’t share every story of moving sacrifice, selflessness and courage, we are touched by the examples of humanity shining through our very own network. Read on for more.

Women Working on Beirut Recovery

Aline Kamakian 

Restauranteur and entrepreneur Aline Kamakian was hosting a staff meeting in her Armenian restaurant, Mayrig, when the explosion injured herself and her 25-person team.

The restaurant she’d worked 20 years to build was destroyed, but she focused on performing first aid on members of her team, ensuring staff went to the hospital despite losing her own right ear. Just days after the explosion, she mobilized to start working with World Central Kitchen and cooking to feed more than 2,000 members of her community. Hear her story and learn how her team has taken action in this podcast on Apple iTunes, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts – or you can watch the interview on YouTube.

How to give: You can support her restaurant’s recovery through her GoFundMe.

 

Joelle Abou Farhat

VVEngage Fellow Joelle Abou Farhat’s Fiftyfifty NGO got to work and created the “Women for Beirut” initiative, which is focusing on:

  • Coordinating between women on the ground to streamline efforts and channel donations on the ground where they need to go;
  • Building a social media platform highlighting the field work being done by women across Lebanon (available here: FacebookTwitter, and Instagram)
  • Creating a team for home service restoration that will visit damaged houses in Beirut that need minor repairs to help as many families as possible before the winter rain

How to give: If you’d like to support Joelle’s efforts to streamline women’s recovery plans, please contact +961 4 412897, or +961 79182926 or email Joelle at joelle@fiftyfiftylb.com.

Madiha Raslan

VV GROW Fellow Madiha Raslan is the President of the Women Leader’s Council – the first council in Lebanon within the Federation of Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture. Following the devastating explosion, she and the Women Leader’s Council created the Rising Up Fund, to support Lebanese women in need during this unprecedented national disaster.

How to give: To give to the fund, please see the banking details below.

 

Dr. Rouba Mhaissen

Global Leadership Award Honoree and VVLead Fellow Rouba Mhaissen quickly mobilized her organization, Sawa for Development and Aid, to put together a comprehensive brief and strategy for recovery and rehabilitation. Sawa’s strategy includes:

  • Shelter rehabilitation: Supporting families in removing the destruction and rubble, salvage what remains of their belongings, and do simple repairs where possible.
  • Food security: Providing food parcels that can be used to prepare meals and with hot meals prepared on a daily basis for other households. The parcels are procured locally and consist of rice, pasta, oil, legumes, canned goods and other staple items.
  • WASH and Sanitation: Supplying family hygiene kits for affected households containing cleaning and hygiene products, as well as PPEs (masks, sanitizers) that would protect them in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Medical Support: planning to provide medications and supplies for the elderly and vulnerable groups who suffer from chronic diseases and illnesses, as well for patients who need follow-up treatments for their injuries sustained from the explosion.

How to give: To support Sawa’s efforts in Beirut, donate here.  And to learn more about Rouba and her work, check out this film about her work and commitment to caring for refugees throughout the Middle East.

 

Lamice Joujou

VV GROW Fellow, GAP Mentee, VV100 woman leader, entrepreneur and early years educator Lamice Joujou had left her day care center, Dent De Lait, in Beirut along with her 8 year-old son and 2 of her employees 20 minutes before the enormous explosion demolished a great part of her day care center.

“I have founded Dent De Lait in 1997 and started our 2nd branch in Sodeco-Ashrafieh district , a vibrant colorful and Eco oriented space that took around 15 months to be built and got destroyed in 4 seconds. The next day, we started site work in an attempt to rebuild and be able to receive our children back in time for the fall semester.

We can’t afford more losses after the pandemic, the revolution and the very high inflation rate, paying rent and salaries has never felt like a burden as much as this year.

In parallel we launched a MILK & DIAPERS donation initiative to help support the children and families of Beirut in collaboration with local NGOs and our 20years+ families’ network. A post trauma hotline has been created as well to support the families and the children who witnessed the explosion and the terrible stories that they have lived consequently.”

How to give: Support her rebuilding efforts here.