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ARDD and Terre des Hommes announce the results of the “She Leads” Regional Advocacy Challenge


Within the framework of the She Leads program, which aims to activate the participation of girls and young women in the decision-making process and increase their representation in formal and informal institutions in the Arab world, the Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD) and Terre des Hommes announced the results of the “She Leads Regional Advocacy Challenge: Challenges and Lessons Learned”, where sisters Sundus and Salsabil Saleh from Jordan came in first place, while Aya Al-Labban from Egypt came in second, on women’s participation in the labor market, and in third place came Kalthoum Kathrak and Zainab Ghazaleh from Lebanon in the field of women’s political participation.

The announcement of the results of the Advocacy Challenge by the Advisor for Women and Youth Programs at ARDD, Dr. Sanaa Al-Jelassi, included several interactive sessions with the aim of reviewing the efforts and initiatives undertaken by the young women participating in the She Leads program in Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt, as effective advocates for positive change in their communities, and to recognize their efforts and achievements in implementing their advocacy plan, emulating and practicing their skills, as well as applying their advocacy and leadership strategies.

On the She Leads program and the partnership between ARDD and Terre des Homs, Sarah Al-Halawani, Regional Project Manager of the program at Plan International/Jordan, indicated that it aims to support fair representation between men and women to increase women’s participation in decision-making processes, through capacity-building activities that focus on increasing girls’ and women’s access to education and skills development, promoting women’s economic empowerment and their involvement in the political process, in addition to building evidence-based advocacy skills and meaningful interaction, and raising awareness through a collaborative and comprehensive approach at the regional and international levels.

Lina Halasa, Director of the She Leads project at ARDD, explained that the participants in the program participated in awareness, training and capacity building sessions that lasted for four months, in order to help and motivate them to think and identify areas through which they can bring about change and decision-making within their communities, as the participants are expected to later create advocacy groups and initiatives even after the end of the program.

Halasa pointed out that the educational programs in which the young women participated were conducted in cooperation with women-led associations, initiatives, and organizations in the Arab world, namely: the Human Rights Forum for Family Issues in Lebanon, the Ana Insan Association for the Rights of the Disabled in Jordan, in addition to The Egyptian Female Lawyers Initiative in Egypt.

On “Empowering Young Women: Advocates for Positive Community Change”, trainer, Martina Kanda, stressed that Arab women are capable of being active and leading and achieving a positive impact on society, but they need to feel the need for change and search for it firsthand, as well as believing in themselves and their source of strength, calling for the importance of continuing to support the girls’ movement and working to develop their leadership skills.

In an interactive session titled: “Empowering Young Women’s Advocacy: Visions, Experiences, and Opportunities”, Senior Advisor on Youth Affairs at Plan International Geneva, Anya Gass, gave a progressive presentation on active advocacy, advising young participants on the need to learn languages and culture of countries, set goals and steps, learn about legislation and policies in communities, and then apply their advocacy calls whether through art and drama, media, or panel discussions.

Gass’s speech was followed by interactive discussions moderated by Plan’s Youth Affairs Officer under the title: “In the Spotlight: Initiatives… Achievements and Obstacles”, in which Tuqa Al-Sarayreh, from Jordan, spoke about the Your Right to Know initiative: empowering youth with legal awareness on gender issues in Jordanian legislation, Malak Alamuddin, from Lebanon, on artistic advocacy: highlighting gender challenges in Lebanon and strengthening a network of empowered young women for gender equality, and Ishraq Bousaidi, on her initiative “I am my decision leader from Egypt”, a podcast that addresses the most important issues faced by girls and young women in the Middle East and North Africa.

In a comment by advocacy and lobbying trainer, Rahaf, she indicated that through her initiative related to raising legal awareness for women in the different governorates of the Kingdom, she was able to hold legal knowledge sessions with women to hear their voices and increase their knowledge of many laws and legislations relevant to them, pointing out that she had faced many challenges, including societal judgment, but she went beyond that by continuing to spread legal awareness through social networking sites and available means.

In turn, first-place winner in the advocacy challenge, Salsabil Saleh, did not hesitate to talk about her difficult family circumstances that she went through during the last period, but with patience and tireless effort in cooperation with her sister Sundus, they were able to implement their advocacy plans about increasing women’s opportunities in the labor market and making a difference in their communities. The young women advise: “Don’t let any obstacle stand in your way, keep striving and rising to the top.”

Second-place winner, Aya Al-Labban, praised ARDD’s efforts to provide her with the opportunity to participate in the She Leads project, which helped correct many of her ideas, saying that “this initiative allowed women and girls to express their opinions through the activities we carried out, as it had a great impact on changing some of their ideas and spreading awareness about legal and societal matters.”

Meanwhile, third-place winners, Kalthoum Kathrak and Zainab Ghazaleh, noted that this initiative provided them with accurate knowledge on the subject of advocacy, and influenced them on a personal level, specifically by giving them the opportunity to meet the women and listen to them.

In conclusion, to move forward, Orenda Gioni, Coordinator of Access to Justice at Terre des Hommes Lausanne, representing the delegation of Iraq, gave the concluding remarks on the She Leads program, and the need for policymakers and decision-makers to realize the importance of women’s civic, political, and economic participation in general, and expanding opportunities for them, which would primarily reflect on societies and indicators of poverty and unemployment, as well as on economic development, in addition to the need to pay attention to local needs, and prepare training and rehabilitation programs to educate and train them as essential contributors to building and leading societies.