The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) is a local non-profit, non-partisan Lebanese human rights organization in Beirut that was established by the Franco-Lebanese Movement SOLIDA (Support for Lebanese Detained Arbitrarily) in 2006. SOLIDA has been active since 1996 in the struggle against arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and the impunity of those perpetrating gross human violations.

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January 30, 2017

The Daily Star- Syrian-Lebanese NGO head joins Forbes 30 under 30, January 30 , 2017

BEIRUT: While making it onto the Forbes 30 under 30 will provide opportunities for Syrian-Lebanese activist Rouba Mhaissen, she said it also comes with a responsibility to use her success to further champion her cause. Mhaissen was recognized in the 2017 Law and Policy subset category of the Forbes magazine’s much-coveted list of young innovators for the work she has done supporting refugees since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011 that led to the displacement of millions.
“[Forbes approached me] and asked for details about my work, saying that someone had nominated me,” the 28-year-old economist, activist and development practitioner told The Daily Star. “I was very happy. I was like great, ‘I am going to put on my CV that I was nominated for Forbes [30 under 30],’ I even had little hope. I didn’t think I was going to make it.”
Mhaissen is the founder and director of SAWA for Development and Aid, a non-profit organization supporting Syrian refugees in Lebanon since 2011. She is also the founder and director of the U.K.-based SAWA Foundation that she established in 2016, which supports forced migrants in Europe and the Middle East.
Having earned her undergraduate degree in economics from the American University of Beirut, she went on to pursue a masters degree in Development from the London School of Economics.
Mhaissen, who recently moved back to Lebanon, also holds a Ph.D. in Gender and Economic Development from the School of Oriental and African Studies, also in London. In addition, she has two degrees in “exponential technologies” from Singularity University in Silicon Valley.
“In 2011 the Syrian revolution started [and] I heard about the first 40 families that had fled from Syria to Lebanon. So I just took the car and went to [visit them],” Mhaissen, speaking from SAWA’s Beirut office, recalled. “I saw what they needed and I wrote a text message [that was shared widely] and people started wanting to donate and help,” she said.
Mhaissen said she never thought that what began as a reaction to the start of the Syrian conflict would become an organization that provides broad assistance to Syrian refugees, but Mhaissen took the issue seriously from the start and began campaigning in schools, universities and community centers in Europe and several other countries to raise awareness.
“I made it onto the Forbes law and policy [list] because, for the past six years, I’ve been shaping policy discourse on Syrian refugee issues whether it was in the Middle East region, Europe or the U.S.” she said.
Her work to date had opened doors for her, leading to invitations to meetings and events at the U.S. Congress and White House, the U.K. Parliament, the European Union, the U.N. and the World Economic Forum in Davos, among others.
“[These invitations], and the fact that I traveled and spoke a lot, increased the visibility of my work,” she said.
Mhaissen has also been a recipient of the Foreign and Commonwealth Award and is one of the AUB Distinguished Alumni Awardees.
Nevertheless, the Forbes recognition further places her in the spotlight. “To tell you the truth, I was happy about the nomination, it’s interesting to be nationally recognized for the work that you do.
But I think that if anything this puts more responsibility on my shoulders,” she said, noting that her main focus now is on how to use this recognition to further her work and that of her organization.
“These nominations and awards have been putting me in a position of leadership that perhaps I didn’t choose, but I ended up here so I feel the big responsibility toward the communities that we are serving. Whether that’s [Syrian refugees] ... communities in the Middle East or in Lebanon with everything we are trying to do, or the staff and the people that I work with.”
This sense of responsibility is ongoing and growing according to Mhaissen, who acknowledged it can be overwhelming. She has spoken openly about the sense of loss and sadness that activists working on the Syrian crisis sometimes experience in the face of the knowledge that more should be done. For her, it has become important to tell other people in the same field that feeling vulnerable is natural.
“There is a sense of guilt accompanying everyone that is living in this region,” Mhaissen said. “Sometimes when I open Skype, [I think how] most of my contacts will forever be offline. So there is this thought that if you do something else in your life, you have abandoned the revolution, the cause or the blood of those who have passed away for what you believe in.”
She added however that this sense of guilt can drain the sustained energy needed to continue working in this field. “I think right now [there is a] realization that we have gone from a sprint to a marathon. It’s the realization that actually [the Syrian war] is not going to end anytime soon,” Mhaissen said. “We need to be very smart about how we use our energy, how we think strategically about it and how we can move from emergency work that is constant and ongoing to taking care of ourselves [and being] able to do more.”

Source & Link : The Daily Star

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