TLS Gender Mainstreaming for Equality Awareness and Advocacy
Upon completing the first-ever TL Gender Scholars semester, LAU MEPI-TLSers reflect on their freshly-acquired knowledge through a myriad of gender-related activities.
As the first-ever semester of the LAU Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) Tomorrow’s Leaders Gender Scholars program (TLS) reaches an end, TLS students make use of freshly-acquired gender-based training and knowledge to address traditional gender roles and stereotypes through a series of activities and in-depth studies.
For Fall 2020, 275 currently enrolled LAU Lebanese students were selected to join the recently-launched TLS program, an initiative of the US Department of State. The main objective of the MEPI-TLS program is to instill positive, transformative change by increasing the knowledge and awareness of university-level students on gender disparities and fostering their abilities and skills to advocate and lobby for gender equality.
Through the TLS student-based learning program, students discussed and critiqued scholarly work, attended webinars given by gender experts, participated in workshops on masculinity and women entrepreneurship, and led their own team projects. TLSers worked in teams, utilized quantitative and qualitative primary research, conducted surveys and interviews, and synthesized existing evidence-based research and reports of IGOS and NGOs.
Despite Lebanon’s multiple crises that were worsened by the pandemic, the end of the fall semester reflected the interests, passion, and hard work of the students that resulted in 45 projects, each done by a team of four to seven students. The top 10 projects were selected to be published on MEPI’s website to show off students’ work covering pressing topics, which were based on primary research, and were creatively presented in slide format, animated videos, and documentaries featuring live interviews with private and public officials as well as with other LAU students.
Food for Thought:
During the fall semester, MEPI LAU TLS students took part in the monthly lecture series, “Food for Thought” (F4T) organized by the Arab Institute for Women (AiW) at LAU to further engage TLSers in gender discussions. Two webinars were tailormade for TLS scholars, with the aim of sensitizing them on several topics related to gender equality and women’s rights issues. The first webinar “The Pandemic, The Blast, and Their Effects on Gender Rights” underlined the effect of the pandemic in increasing gender-based violence, while another session, “Gender Discrimination: Legal, Political and Economic Implications”, stressed on women’s participation in politics and in the labor market.
Both webinars were interactive and closed off with lively Q&A sessions, allowing TLSers to connect with panelists and deepen their understanding of the discussed topics.
In preparation for the spring semester, all TLS students gathered at a virtual town hall meeting led by Academic Director Lina Kreidie and Executive Director Dina Abdul Rahman. Dr. Kreidie gave an overview of the fall 2020 evaluations, and spring 2021 expectations. Students shared their gender projects with their colleagues, new faculty introduced themselves, and advisors welcomed their advisees to the new semester. Toward the end of the meeting, Abdul Rahman gave the students a succinct introduction on how to use their TLS skills for academic and career applications.
Beyond the classroom initiatives:
TLSers were excited to start new projects and to connect and work with private and public institutions, working to bring more awareness to their fight for gender equality and human rights.
TLSers Yasmina El Masri and Ala Zahabi along with a group of 12 other TLS colleagues initiated a new student club to advocate and promote gender equality. The club is anticipated to be active during spring 2021 and it is planned to become a hub for TLS students to raise more awareness on gender issues on campus and beyond.
After being equipped with analytical and critical thinking skills, hands-on experiences, case studies, and hybrid simulation, TLSers were able to come up with their very first gender-based research paper.
A recurring theme across their papers was on how gender stereotypes weigh down a woman’s self-confidence and keep her from her attaining her potential.
“Our paper - Gender in the Workplace - tackles the problem of gender discrimination in the Lebanese workplace. In it, we discussed the different aspects of gender inequality following all the stages any Lebanese woman would pass through during her professional life. This is clearly shown in the obstacles Lebanese women face in the recruitment process, the wage gap between women and men and the underrepresentation of women in managerial positions, as well as the lack of legal support that would otherwise protect their right,” explains Mariella El Khoury, a TLS student who worked with four of her colleagues on this paper.
Others drew from personal experiences:
“We chose this topic, Gender in the Film Industry, because we are currently majoring in TV and Film, and while on set, we have noticed some discrimination between the students. Many of the females were assigned roles in the art department and not the camera department on set because people tend to think that men are more competent than women when it comes to cinematography and directing.” Says Faysal Al Haddad who worked closely on this project with his colleague Ouday Yahya.
“TLS allowed us to enrich our knowledge of gender equity and issues related to gender discrimination. Through the ‘Fundamentals of Gender Discrimination’ course, as well as working on case studies, and attending a series of webinars related to gender equality issues, we gained exposure to different topics and issues common in our world today. Coming from diverse technical backgrounds far from the sociology field, being TL scholars helped us expand our knowledge to other disciplines, “ said Charbel Nassar and his team members, highlighting the importance of the TLS program in fostering their knowledge of gender-based discrimination.
“The MEPI TLS program allowed us to connect with several NGOs and build a network with those who share our goals to promote equality. For example, our team connected with lawyers, notaries, and advisors with the help of TLS and this allowed us to reach out to active people in this field [Lebanese Laws and Gender Inequality] who showed us that change is still possible,” proclaimed Perla Saliba who, together with her colleagues, worked on the paper, and emphasized the core value of the TLS program in building a strong network, all “essential components for a successful project.”