Amending laws that discriminate against women and promoting the passage of laws that empower them and allow them to be part of the decision-making process at all levels is one of the main tenets of the Lebanese non-governmental organization The Institute of Progressive Women (IPW).
As a manager at BBAC bank in Beirut, Wafa Abed, the president of IPW, was surprised to learn that Lebanese law prohibited mothers from opening a bank account in the name of a minor, even while acting as their guardian. She found out one day in 2009 when she bumped into Barbara Batlouni, country director of AMIDEAST, who had just tried to open an account for her children and was denied. Wafa, currently an E-Mediat participant in Beirut, told her, “Barbara, if we can get this law changed, the first account opened will be by you.” And with that, IPW, which works to amend laws that discriminate against women, launched an initiative to change the law, as part of USAID’s Transparency and Accountability Grants project.
Nine months later, and with great effort by IPW to hold a series of roundtables and collect some 4000 letters signed by women and men throughout the country, the Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL) endorsed the initiative, and Barbara Batlouni indeed was the first Lebanese woman to open an account for her children without the consent from their father.
Now IPW has begun a new campaign to overturn policies that prohibit mothers from taking their minor children outside the country without written consent by the children’s father. IPW is employing the skills gained from its participation in the E-Mediat program and is using Facebook as its main social media tool for the campaign, since this is the place where its audience is gathered. IPW’s activities, roundtables and workshops are published on Facebook with photos, and its videos are also posted on its YouTube channel. IPW is using Facebook to poll its audience and gather signatures for the petitions supporting its Mother’s Rights-End Gender Discrimination campaign.
Wafa knows the road is a long one, with many more campaigns to take on. Yet she is confident the skills IPW is gaining from the E-Mediat program will help the organization continue to make new gains in its efforts to achieve gender equality through the rule of law.