In Lebanon, our partners, Triumphant Mercy provide education for Syrian refugee children in a dedicated school in Zahle. The curriculum includes vocational activities which the children love, but participation in these classes has often perpetuated gender stereotypes. We’re delighted to share how we are beginning to break down these gender barriers to open up opportunities for girls and boys.
STAYING IN SCHOOL
Over the years our partners have worked hard to tackle gender barriers, prevent child marriage and challenge stereotypes within the communities we support, to ensure that girls have the opportunity to learn and thrive.
The team continually negotiates with parents and talks about how important it is for the girls to continue their studies at a higher level and this year, out of the 15 Grade 9 students who passed their exams in Syria, 10 were girls.
Each year a cohort of older students study and prepare for a three week trip back to Syria to take the Syrian National Exam in the hopes that this will help them in future, should a return be possible. Find out more previous years' exam students.
Despite the leaps forward, there is still a way to go. One of our Grade 9 students was denied permission to go to the exams in Syria, and pulled out of school to be married only two months before the trip. This was after two years of academic work and progress, and many heartfelt discussions with the family, who even sent a photo of her destroyed books to make their position clear.
Fortunately many, many of the girls we support are taking steps forward, breaking through these norms and building hope for the future.
CHALLENGING THE NORMS
Gender norms around roles for women are a constant struggle in Lebanon, as Syrian girls in the refugee community we work with are widely expected to marry young and help around the home.
Until recently, the sewing and carpentry vocational classes offered at the school we support in Zahle, were offered to girls and boys respectively. But this summer, mixed classes were introduced for the first time, enabling boys to join in with sewing and girls with carpentry.
The girls were also very excited to finally be learning carpentry. To build on their lessons, in June, two volunteers recently facilitated extra woodwork workshops for the girls, female teachers, and local women.
Whilst the girls were nervous around the tools and machines to start with, they grew in confidence and really enjoyed the various projects.
“Carpentry is a man’s job in many of their minds, so seeing them embrace the challenge and enjoy the work was amazing! We hope to run additional workshops down the line to impact more women in the surrounding community.”
BETHANY LANIER, PROGRAMME MANAGER
Staff have been delighted to see the boys thriving and really enjoying the sewing class too, with 15 year old Faraj saying, “I love the idea of learning to sew and that it isn’t just for girls.”
Recent interviews with the students have shown that the gender divides within attitudes to careers and activities are now much reduced, with more girls than boys expecting to become doctors, and the two children hoping to become teachers being boys.
In the past, it has generally been the boys setting their sights on medical work, often seen as unattainable by the girls, who often talk more about becoming teachers as they are used to seeing female teachers in the school.
Female sewing students Hadeel and Yasdine talked about loving their clothing making classes, and how they’ve learned to upcycle outfits and share knowledge with their families.
However, both also went on to say that they want to be doctors in the future (Hadeel a paediatrician) so it is clear that, whilst they appreciate the practical skills they are learning, they don’t feel limited by them. They also expressed how they feel confident they can achieve their chosen careers later in life.
One of their mothers, Amouna Al -Ali, talked about how she supports her daughter’s dreams, saying “I want my daughter to be a doctor in the village. I help with her homework by trying to keep the atmosphere at home quiet so she can concentrate. I provide her with this support because my hope is that her future will be more beautiful and better than my future.”