Prevention of Domestic Violence in Lebanon; Engaging Men and Boys
As the war in Syria has descended into the world’s deadliest conflict, almost five million people have fled to surrounding countries.1 Protection concerns for over a million Syrian refugees in Lebanon continue to increase. Of 1,048,275 registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon as of March 2016, 80% are women or children.2 Continued displacement and lack of access to work and other coping mechanisms has led to a loss of hope amongst many men and resulted in frustration and negative coping mechanisms.3
In this context, many women have become increasingly vulnerable to domestic violence, and early marriage.4 A UNICEF survey carried out in 2016 revealed that child marriage among Syrian refugees in Lebanon had soared to 39 per cent compared to 13 per cent in pre-conflict Syria.5 The same survey indicated that attitudes towards acceptance of domestic violence are particularly high in the Akkar district of Northern Lebanon which borders neighbouring Syria, and is host to a large amount of Syrian refugees.6
Concern’s Engaging Men programme has a specific focus on preventing and alleviating sexual exploitation and GBV. This is done through dialogue on: concepts and practices of masculinity; the positive and negative use of male power; and education on how gender norms can affect men such that they are harmful to women but also to men and boys themselves.
The programme is based around a 12 week training course structure that uses activities and exercises to understand gender roles and gender relations, gender roles in action, cycles of violence, violence against women and sexual violence, non-violent communication and men as nurturers and caregivers. The programme employs a prevention-focused, community-based approach to help reduce GBV and build up overall community structures.
1 UNHCR (2016) Syrian Regional Refugee Response Portal: http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php
3 UNHCR (2015) Culture, Context and the Mental Health and Psychosocial Wellbeing of Syrians: A Review for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support staff working with Syrians Affected by Armed Conflict, p39
4 Amnesty International (2016) ‘I want a Safe Place’ Refugee Women from Syria Uprooted and Unprotected in Lebanon’, p41 & 50
5 UNICEF 2016) Baseline Survey. Available at: https://data.unhcr. org/syrianrefugees/download.php?id=11355
The 2016 evaluation of the Engaging Men programme highlighted a number of significant impacts including:
- The programme facilitated a safe emotional space for men to meet collectively to talk about their problems and to become more attuned and reflective about their relationships with their wives and children.
- Men reported it provided them with a reason and avenue to leave the house; it provided them with a chance to socialise, feel some sense of belonging and expand their social network; and offered some degree of relief from mounting psychological distress and pressure.
- Within their families, results indicated many men expressed greater empathy towards their wives and their needs and increased dialogue and positive time spent with children.
“Because of the rent situation, because of the pressure from the landlord, and because we and the children were hungry, he (Khadija’s husband) began to get depressed. He was shouting at us then he began the hitting, beating, arguing with me all the time….”
Kahdija, a mother of five boys and two girls, lives in a crowded informal settlement on the outskirts of Halba, in the Akkar province of Northern Lebanon. It contrasts sharply with the comfortable home she shared with her husband and their five children in Al Qusayr, about 35km south of Homs. They were forced to flee with their extended family to Lebanon three years ago. Since then, all their life savings have gone on rent for their temporary home. The family has undertaken severe debt, which has in turn created extremely tense conditions in her home.
Khadija and her husband enrolled in the workshop courses run by Concern. The sessions helped her understand what was happening in her family and she enjoyed the comradery with the participants. She said her husband’s mood improved after going to the sessions and the community project, which was built into the session, made him feel in control of his life again. She believes the programme has helped to improve relations with her husband. Kahdija says they sit down together to discuss their problems and try and talk things through unlike before.