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NAYA| A call for a gender-neutral response following the Beirut blast

Source: Annahar
Sally Farhat
Sally Farhat
Women walk past destroyed cars at a neighborhood near the scene of Tuesday's explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Aug. 7, 2020. (AP Photo)
Women walk past destroyed cars at a neighborhood near the scene of Tuesday's explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Aug. 7, 2020. (AP Photo)
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BEIRUT: In an effort to ensure that donors, international organizations, and local NGOs respond in a gender-neutral manner to the deadly Beirut blast that has left hundreds dead and thousands injured, feminist activists and women’s rights organizations in Lebanon issued a charter of demands on Monday. The 43 signatories to this charter requested the channeling of aids and their delivery in an equitable and just manner.

“Although research shows the importance of women’s involvement in prevention and crisis response, their leadership roles as early responders and promoters of community resilience continues to be underutilized leaving many of their needs unmet,” Abir Chbaro, gender expert, founder of WNLB, and one the signatories of the charter, told Annahar. “This is clearly accelerated by the sociopolitical construct and the low participation and representation in decision making and negotiations ranking Lebanon 145 out of 149 countries on the Gender Equality Index issued by the World Economic Forum in 2020.”

The distribution of aid in an equitable manner takes into account the disproportionate impact of the explosion on different groups in society, including the historically excluded groups, such as women and people with disabilities, migrant and refugee women, among others.

“Based on our previous experiences of crises in Lebanon and on how aid has been distributed and spent, we are concerned that well-intended aid will not be spent for necessary and non-discriminatory relief,” the signatories of the charter said in their press release. “This charter thus, represents our concerns and demands for an immediate humanitarian assistance process that recognizes and addresses existing gender inequalities and seeks to ensure that all women and girls’ needs and priorities are met and that the process is transparent and subjected to due diligence as well as clear accountability mechanisms.”

In order to ensure a gender-neutral response to the crisis, the charter outlines five key steps that must be followed.

The first step includes an assessment of needs and priorities that would allow for a fair distribution of aids disaggregated by sex, age, and legal status.

“We demand that all aid mechanisms undertake a sex- age- and legal status-disaggregated assessment of damage, needs and priorities of all impacted groups,” the charter read. “This should be done through empowering a representative body that includes independent women’s rights and feminist organizations, gender experts and scholars, UN Women and relevant governmental entities.”

Secondly, the charter requests the fair representation of women and their inclusion in the response plans.

“Recovery, relief and rehabilitation deliberations and planning should be inclusive and equitably guided by all components of Lebanese society…The formation of the new government should also ensure an equal representation of men and women,” the charter adds.

Other demands and key steps include the prevention and response to violence against women and girls that might result out of displacement and over-crowded temporary shelters; the provision of food, shelter and sustainable livelihoods; and access to healthcare and reproductive health services.

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