BEIRUT: The Lebanese American University last week launched what they say is the first Gender in Development and Humanitarian Assistance Diploma in the Middle East at an event attended by senior figures including the Dutch ambassador. “At LAU we believe in our responsibilities and obligations to respond to the needs of society,” Joseph Jabbra, President of LAU said during the launch. “This particular program brings to life some of the very important issues we are struggling with in Lebanon and the entire region.”
The new course, run through the Continuing Education Program at LAU with the Human Rights Education Association and the Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World, was launched at an event Friday.
The diploma targets students and practitioners and aims to provide them with the skills necessary to address gender issues in development and humanitarian contexts.
Dutch Ambassador Hester Somsen, the keynote speaker, highlighted the need for build capacity in gender issues, as well as the centrality of gender issues in humanitarian work. “It’s perfectly timed to have a course like this – it’s so important to have gender issues included in all the programs you’re focusing on. Without women, we get nowhere.”
Jabbra added that, the program “brings real issues into academia, which are important to all of us.”
The program itself consists of 10 courses spread out over six months. Half of the classes are required – addressing basic topics in gender equality – while the other half allow students to dive deep into specific topics like gender in conflict, or gender-based violence.
Frank Elbers, the director of the Human Rights Education Association, explained that the design of the program was based on a desire to make it as accessible as possible. “We decided on a format that would be hybrid – meaning that we would have classes at LAU throughout the year, but make them accessible through video conferencing.”
This format, he said, “makes it possible for people to access [classes] who would not [be able to] come because they have to travel or have other responsibilities.” This flexibility, according to Elbers, “is one of the key traits of the diploma. As we all know, continuing education requires this flexibility.”
Beyond its design, however, all those involved with the program continually emphasized the unique importance of the program for Lebanon and the region generally.
“In the Arab world, we need to take this challenge and build up a region that respects human rights for all and advocates for gender equality,” said May al-Khalil, the founder and president of the Beirut Marathon Association and a board member of the IWSAW. “The diploma was developed with this in mind, to build local capacity to address gender issues.”
Lina Abirafeh, the director of the Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World, pointed out the crucial gap the course will fill. “We saw the need for local capacity and the fundamental lack of Arab capacity to address Arab developmental and humanitarian issues. We hope that this diploma will provide the skills for people to get that job done,” she said.
To sum up the importance of the new course, Somsen highlighted the joint role men and women play in achieving equality. “It takes two hands to clap” she said, “but let it be one hand of a man and one hand of a woman to make sure we get somewhere with equality.”
Source & Link : The Daily Star