Meet the international experts

27 – 28 November the Swedish Gender Equality Agency arranges the International Expert Meeting on violence-preventive work against honour-based violence in Angered, Gothenburg. Before the meeting we asked some questions to our guests, experts from the international organisations; what challenges are they facing, crucial elements in their methods of combating honour-based violence and oppression, key elements and success factors and what they are hoping to contribute with at the expert meeting. Here are their answers:

ABAAD – Resource Centre for Gender Equality, Lebanon

What does your organisation do within the field of violence prevention?
ABAAD works with violence prevention in several ways:

  • Through training with young girls and boys with the “Playing for Gender Equality” Toolkit. This toolkit is designed for children aged 8-11 years old. Using fun, competitive, and interactive games, children learn about gender, violence, and gender equality.
  • ABAAD’s ‘Jina Dar’ program reaches the most rural areas in Lebanon with mobile events spanning three-five days of gender training and events. One example of the prevention work done through this program is educating children through puppet shows. Teaching them about gender equality, gender-based violence, and early child marriage.
  • Using the Program Ra training manual, young adult women and men can take part in weekly trainings that span the course of three months. Participants of this training will learn about masculinities, femininities, non-violent relationships, and how topics such as drug use and sexual relationships are gendered.
  • Community outreach initiatives are pillars of ABAAD’s preventative work, empowering participants from past gender trainings to develop creative messages about gender equality. These community initiatives are developed and implemented by members of the community with supportive coaching throughout the process by ABAAD technical experts in gender.
  • Empowerment trainings from young women and girls at ABAAD Women and Girls Safe Spaces Centers, in partnership with the Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs, provide assertiveness trainings, gender trainings, and psycho-social support to young women and girls from 8 different governorates in Lebanon.
  • ABAAD provides Positive Parenting and Early Child Development trainings through the three months long Program Ebb training initiative. New and/or expecting parents are taught about masculinities and femininities, gender-based violence and positive discipline.
  • Research and national advocacy on issues such as early child marriage, sexual harassment, and all forms of gender based and sexual violence seed to both inform the general public about the pressing need for attention to these issues and the current status of gender bases violence in Lebanon, as well as advocating for more gender equal and equitable laws and practices in the country.

Are there any challenges within your work?
There are many challenges that we as ABAAD face in our work. Aside from the patriarchal systems of social norms, laws, and the political landscape of modern day Lebanon, the post-conflict situation of Lebanon that still defines our country after the 30 years Civil War and the current war in Syria (and resulting refugee crisis in Lebanon) pose constant and over-whelming challenges to work on gender equality, peace and development.

What are the key elements and success factors to your work?
The key elements and success factors of the work at ABAAD is the dedication of the ABAAD staff and administration to creative, passionate, inspirational methods to address gender-based violence in Lebanon. As can be seen through ABAAD’s trainings, programs, and national campaigning and advocacy work, engaging the people on all levels of society, based on the ecological model, is necessary to catalyse ownership of the issues by the Lebanese people and government. One example of the success ABAAD has been able to accomplish though these types of interventions was the appeal of Lebanese Penal Code 522 in 2017. This former law once allowed perpetrators of rape exoneration from their heinous crimes is they agreed to marry their victims

What do you see as crucial elements in the methods of combating honour-based violence and oppression?
The crucial elements in combating gender-based violence and oppression are, the awareness of the discriminative socialization process of a patriarchal society, aiding the realization of the interconnectedness of development, peace, and gender equality, and supporting the movement of growth of Lebanon towards gender equality through laws, community engagement, and gender sensitive psycho-social support to the individuals residing in Lebanon.

What does the work combating honour-based violence and oppression require from authorities and organisations from your perspective?
The work on combating gender-based violence and oppression requires authorities to understand the far reaching and generational transmission of gender-based violence. Authorities must be responsible for the changing of laws and cultural practices of gender-based violence and must be held accountable for the continued violation of human rights that these laws and practices incur on their citizens

What are you hoping to contribute with to the expert meeting?
I hope to give an accurate account of the state of gender based violence and discrimination to those attending this meeting, to share successes of ABAAD in working towards gender equality in Lebanon, and to learn and network with other experts from around the globe to make continued progress in ABAAD’s mission towards gender equality and ending all forms of gender based violence in Lebanon and the Middle East and North Africa region, MENA.

Heroes, Germany

What does your organisation do within the field of violence prevention?
We train young men with a migration background in topics like gender equality, discrimination, oppression, human rights, racism, homophobia, sexuality in general etc. When they complete their training, they then will be allowed to do workshops about the same topics in school classes and act as peer-to-peer educators.

Are there any challenges within your work?
The challenges are fighting structures that have been passed down for generations without attacking a culture or groups as a whole. Also, the young men that come to us face many challenges and hurdles when talking about their work at heroes. People in their family, social environment and circle of friends can sometimes be against the work they do or make fun of them for fighting for women rights and so on.

What are the key elements and success factors to your work?
First and fore most it is very important to build a close relationship with the young men, to be able to honestly and openly talk about difficult and taboo topics. Secondly, it is the fact that our Trainings target only young males who then do the workshops. It has a great effect on younger boys to see young men from similar or the same communities talking about gender equality and defending women rights.

What do you see as crucial elements in the methods of combating honour-based violence and oppression?
Making men realize that equality is beneficial for everybody, not just women. It is also important for liberal people to speak up about oppression and violence, no matter who they are talking about and without having false tolerance for oppressive traditions.

What does the work combating honour-based violence and oppression require from authorities and organisations from your perspective?
Time to build a competent and motivated team and most importantly, money. The less money a team/organisation gets for their work, the more they will be preoccupied with getting the needed money in, instead of doing the actual work.

What are you hoping to contribute with to the expert meeting?
Real life experiences from young men who have a different view on the topic and developments regarding violence in the name of honour than theoretical experts and/or scientists.

IMDi – Directory of Integration and Diversity, Norway

What does your organisation do within the field of violence prevention?
My organisation is responsible for implementing the Norwegian Government’s action plan to combat negative social control, including forced marriages and female genital mutilation.

Are there any challenges within your work?
One of the challenges is collaborating with different actors like the child protection service. Issue of oaths of secrecy can prove challenging, especially when it comes to sharing information.

What are the key elements and success factors to your work?
A number of successes have been registered. More and more young people are now aware of the work being done and where to get help in cases of honour-based violence and oppression. Also, many young adults are now aware of their rights and able to make choices to shape their own lives and decide their own development agenda.

What do you see as crucial elements in the methods of combating honour-based violence and oppression?
One crucial element is issue of patriarchy. Many of the cases registered are from families with patriarchal cultures and traditions. Such cultures are deeply rooted, and many find it impossible to discard them. Dialogue with parents can at times be challenging.

What does the work combating honour-based violence and oppression require from authorities and organisations from your perspective?
The authorities and organisations must ensure that the law takes precedence first and foremost. This work is about human rights and that is a fundamental thing that must be safeguarded.

Institutions working with these issues should also be strengthened, especially in terms of resource allocation by the government.

What are you hoping to contribute with to the expert meeting?
I am hoping to share my expertise of over 10 years working with especially young boys from patriarchal backgrounds in the context of honour-based violence and how we give them tools to be agents of positive change in their communities and for society as a whole. I am also hoping to expand my network by meeting with other experts working in the same field.

Integrate UK

What does your organisation do within the field of violence prevention?Integrate UK is a youth led organisation that empowers young people to identify issues affecting their lives and to offer solutions.  We run creative and educational projects including music and film making and provide young people with the skills and confidence to lead the work themselves.  They deliver peer education workshops in schools nationally on many issues including gender inequality, sexual harassment, FGM, honour-based violence and abuse, grooming, drug and gang culture and extremism.

Are there any challenges within your work?
Initially, when we started the work, we faced considerable backlash from certain members of the community – particularly male ’elders’.  After two years this died down although they have never been supportive of the work.  This is a quite universal reaction – change doesn’t come easy to those who are relinquishing power.  Other challenges area round securing funding, advocating for necessary policy change, empowering girls to disclose and / or access help and ensuring the progress we have made will not be undermined by Brexit.

What are the key elements and success factors to your work?
We invest in the skills, passion and energy of our youth, allowing them to devise projects by young people, for young people and as such, the resources and methodology resonate with their peers.   Their approach is unique, quirky and extremely intuitive and the workshops they deliver are engaging.  As the young people gain confidence and learn new skills, they take on increasing responsibilities in the office, represent the organisation at high profile events and provide consultation to policy makers and other agencies.

What do you see as crucial elements in the methods of combating honour-based violence and oppression?

It’s important to make sure those leading the work are supported by authorities and statutory agencies.  Working with young people delivers change across all generations, they take the messages home, into their communities and into the next generations.  Our young people feel strongly that real change will come from the youth, not from the ’elders’ or those who want to hold on to their power and position. Youth led work, work in schools, enforcement of law and training of front line professionals are all part of this.  (Written by a young person)

What does the work combating honour-based violence and oppression require from authorities and organisations from your perspective?
If you want to get through to the young people you cannot keep on giving platforms to the older men in the community. Let the young people speak openly and without fear of judgment. Give young people a voice away from the patriarchy, make it publicly clear that they are supported and valued, give them platforms and you will see the results that we know are possible. The ‘elders’ need to stop putting the honour of the family on the girls and to accept and respect the younger generation’s choices for their lives.  Honour-based oppression, violence and abuse stem from gender inequality which is relevant to young people from all socio-economic, cultural and religious backgrounds so tackling this must go hand in hand with ending HBVA. This must be made clear to them and enforced by authorities.  (Written by a young person)

What are you hoping to contribute with to the expert meeting?
There is a tendency to approach issues like female genital mutilation and honour-based violence awareness with ‘cultural sensitivity’ and a fear of being accused of racism – this approach is often counter-productive and emboldens those who wish to retain the status quo.   We hope to demonstrate that many young people want change but need protection and support to achieve it.  By enabling the new generation to lead change, to feel safe and listened to, we can break cycles of abuse and protect future generations.  We want to show how our work impacts young people and influences policy and practice because it is led, devised and designed by those most affected.   (Written by a young person)

Orange Habitat – operated by Suhail Abu Al Sameed, based in Jordan

What does your organisation do within the field of violence prevention?
I am an independent consult conducting trainings on gender-based violence prevention, gender mainstreaming, and community engagement. I also conduct gender audits and assessment and situation analyses, as well as strategy development.

Are there any challenges within your work?
The subject of gender justice can be sensitive culturally and is sometimes faced by resistance from receiving audiences. Another challenge is the lack of cultural competency within international organisations when working in developing countries.

What do you see as crucial elements in the methods of combating honour-based violence and oppression?
Understanding the root causes of violence and the intersectionality of economic, political, cultural and global factors. Gender-based violence is not an individual act but as is a result of a complex system and can only be addressed holistically.

What does the work combating honour-based violence and oppression require from authorities and organisations from your perspective?
Addressing root causes of violence, particularly economic empowerment, political freedom and education

What are you hoping to contribute with to the expert meeting?
Provide a lens that combines my middle eastern cultural knowledge and understand with my western training and professional experience and help bridge the cultural competency gap between the world of development, which is often managed, guided and funded by the west, and the lived realities of local communities that are the target of development work.

The Norwegian expert team

What does your organisation do within the field of violence prevention?
The Norwegian expert team against forced marriages, female genital mutilation and negative social control is a national, inter-agency team that assists in specific matters relating to forced marriages, female genital mutilation, honour-based violence and negative social control.

The team mainly guides the first and second line services, for example the police, immigration authorities, kindergartens, child protective services, embassies, schools, different health services etcetera. We also offer advice and help to individuals directly. As a team we primarily work preventive by offering lectures and courses to increase knowledge and understanding around the phenomenon. In addition, each directorate represented in the team work preventive within their field.

Are there any challenges within your work?
There are some challenges within the field of work. One of them is the professional secrecy. We see that different authorities sometimes struggle with when they are obliged to give information to other authorities and when they can provide information. They are unsure about the different regulations and do not use the possibilities that are there to share information. Furthermore, it is limited what Norwegian authorities, through our embassies, can do in other countries when people are held abroad against their will. This is something young people do not always understand, they often have high expectations as to what the embassy practically can do. Therefore, we always advice people not to travel if they are worried about what may happen abroad. In addition to this general phenomenon, understanding and security aspects can be challenging.

What are the key elements and success factors to your work?
Inter-agency cooperation. The different authorities have to work together in order to succeed in these matters.

What do you see as crucial elements in the methods of combating honour-based violence and oppression?
It is important to remember that this is something that concerns us all. Honour based violence is a social problem, not a problem that only concern minority communities. We have to think long-term and include the communities where the violence occurs in the debate and the preventive work.

What does the work combating honour-based violence and oppression require from authorities and organisations from your perspective?
Inter-agency cooperation and phenomenon understanding in combination with a long-term perspective. There is no «quick fix» to the problem.

What are you hoping to contribute with to the expert meeting?
Share experiences from the field and hopefully inspire to further work on the thematic.

Last updated: 12:57 - 23 Nov, 2018
  • Honour-related violence
  • Gender equality
  • Men's violence against women