Under the patronage of Mrs Claudine Aoun Roukoz, President of the National Commission for Lebanese Women, the Good Shepherd Sisters held, in cooperation with the Municipality of Jdeidet-el Metn, a conference entitled "Go Butterflies", on Monday December 3rd. The conference is part of the international campaign "16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence" which takes place every year between November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and December 10th, the Human Rights Day.
The "Go Butterflies" event was attended by high-level officials, lawyers, social activists: Mrs Claudine Aoun Roukoz, President of the NCLW,Jean Ogassapian, Minister of State for Women's Affairs, MPs RolaTabsh and Antoine Habchi, Philippe Lazarini, the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon, Hanna Rahme,Maronite Bishop of Baalbek and Deir-al-Ahmar, Sr SouhailaBou Samra, the Provincial Superior of the Good Shepherd Sisters, Captain Lara Kallas, the representative of the General Director of State Security Maj. General Tony Saliba, ,Mr. Jean el Fakhri,Deir el Ahmar federation of municipalities head, ,Jdeideh-BoushriehSadd Mayor Antoine Jbara,Ms. Sabrina Aubert,French Embassy's First Secretary, Mr.Farid Samaha, the representative of the circle of Lebanese Ambassadors, MrsLoubnaKalout, the representative of Mrs Rabab al-Sadr and Imam al- Sadr Foundation, MrsSadika Kebbithe President of the Federation of Municipalities of the North Mr. Ahmad Kamareddine's spouse, and Mrs. Nabila Fares,Acsauvel President and Rabieh Mayor.It was attended as well by the artists, Nada Abou Farhat, BadihAbou Chakra &Marwa El Khalil. The audience consisted of eminent personalities, agents of changeand many friends of GSS. Genuine, heartfelt testimonials touched the public to the core.
The Master of Ceremony, TV host Bruna Tohme, welcomed the attendees and gave the floor to Sister SouhailaBou Samra, Provincial superior of the Good Shepherd Sisters, inaugurated the conference by explaining the symbolism of "Go Butterflies" which reflects the movement of the Mirabal sisters who were assassinated on 25 November and the butterflies breaking free from their cocoons. In 1999, in the sisters' honor, the United Nations designated 25 November theInternational Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Ms. Nouhad Hayek, the famous poet, recited a moving poem on the status of Arab women, their great potential and the injustice they suffer. Then, Mrs. RolaTabshJaroudy, Lawyer and Member of Parliament, presented the current status of Lebanese laws regarding women: "As a lawyer, a legislator and an activist in the community, I will stop any more injustice towards women. There are laws that need to be annulled or amended to fit the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the international conventions. As the Future Bloc, we have submitted a draft law to remove reservations on the CEDAW and to put an end to discrimination against women. We are also working on the amendment of some articles in the Penal Code."
"Today, we reiterate our commitment to exert more efforts aiming at preserving the simplest Human rights for women, including their right to life and their right to dignity. The first step in this direction is the amendment of the law to protect women from domestic violence.", she added.
Captain Lara Kallas, representative of the General Director of State Security Maj. General Tony Saliba, explained the measures taken by the Lebanese Government to put an end to violence against women: "The General Director of the ISF has recently ordered the creation of the hotline 1745 dedicated to reporting domestic violence problems privately and immediately. As for our work in the General Directorate of State Security, it differs from work in other agencies, and the subject of women and taking care of them was essential to the General Director Major General Tony Saliba who ordered the creation of an internal committee for us, all three women, to follow up on the situations of women soldiers and civilians, listen to them and protect them against any abuse whether internally or externally." She concluded: "I also believe that women cannot reach high positions, or celebrate laws punishing the perpetrators of violence and protecting minors without the help and support of men who believe in the role and importance of women."
Mr. Philippe Lazzarini, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon, shed light on the opportunities and challenges facing the eradication of violence against women, especially the efforts exerted by the United Nations: "We need to change social perceptions and stereotypes to betterunderstand the root causes of violence against women in order to influence andchange social norms. In this regard, we need to encourage dialogue amongdifferent sectors of society and make this an agenda spearheaded by men and otherinfluencers.Violence against women will only end when gender equality and the fullempowerment of women will be a reality.", he said.
Mrs. Nabila Fares, writer, Acsauvel President and Rabieh Mayor, retraced the journey of women throughout history.
TwoTV and movie stars also participated to the event: Mrs. Nada Abou Farhat who tackled violence against women from her perspective with a touching personal experience, and Mr. BadihAbou Chakra who talked about gender equality by telling a true story inspired by a personal life event.
Two testimoniesof domestic violence survivors have particularly marked the audience: one given by the survivor, and the other enacted with brio by actress Marwa El Khalil.
The event was concluded by Mrs. Claudine Aoun Roukoz, President of the National Commission for Lebanese Women who stated: "It is certain that all religions reject and condemn violence and call for peace, love, and tolerance.
A community that accepts violations to human rights and verbal, moral, physical, and sexual violence against its citizens is a self-hampering community. It is a community that requires collective efforts between both public and private entities to restore its stability and that of its constituents."
"On the practical level, civil society organizations play a major role in this context, completing the role of governmental institutions when it comes to the law and raising awareness. The Good Shepherd Sisters' work with women victims of violence and marginalized children reflects the true principles of Christianity, and spreads the message of love, mercy and tolerance within our community and our families. The Good Shepherd Sisters work on the human, social and spiritual development of women and girls who are suffering from the absence of social justice, and homeless women and children living in poverty. It is a high humane message announcing a brighter future that promotes justice, the respect of human rights, and the dignity of everyone, including those who are often forgotten.",she added.
She also pointed out that "the culture of love that we want to achieve is a universal culture that goes beyond places, circumstances and times. It is a culture linking us to our humanity."
Mrs Aoun Roukoz concluded: "Let's all contribute in sharing this culture, each from their position and capacities, and let's make our small families a center for security and peace, instead of violence and exploitation. Let's make our community and our Nation a true depiction of the good that God created in us."
The conference also included an exhibition of paintings and photography expressing the vision of famous artists on the issue of violence against women, open to the public at the Jdeideh Municipality until Tuesday, December 4th.