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Building the capacities of young women and men in the rural south of Lebanon for enhanced engagement and leadership in their communities

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06 May 2019
Building the capacities of young women and men in the rural south of Lebanon for enhanced engagement and leadership in their communities
In its effort to empower youth and build their capacities to be agents for positive change in their society, UNESCO Beirut – in a one-of-a-kind initiative – cooperated with UNIFIL on the project “Youth empowerment through participation in the South Lebanon”.
The project trained 23 young women and men (aged 18-28) from three municipalities in South Lebanon (Jibbal Al Buttum, Qana and As Siddiqin) to equip them with strong life skills in order to enable them to actively engage in the socio-cultural and civic life of their communities. A series of capacity-building workshops were delivered, addressing diverse themes and skills.

“This collaboration between UNESCO Beirut Office and UNIFIL is the first of its kind and offers a unique opportunity to support youth empowerment in a targeted geographic area of Lebanon which is the rural south. It is well aligned with UNESCO's focus on promoting youth leadership and advocacy for influencing policy-making and for participation in local governance.”, indicated Ms. Seiko Sugita, programme specialist for Social and Human Sciences at UNESCO Beirut Office.

“One of UNIFIL priorities is to support the youth so they become active members of their community and an integral part of the decision-making process at the local level. To reach that objective, in partnership with UNESCO, UNIFIL co-funded a project aimed at building youth knowledge of roles and responsibilities of local governance. This project introduces them to success stories of productive communication between youth and municipalities as a way to learn good practices and mechanisms for youth participation in decision-making at the local municipal level”, explained Ms. Svjetlana Jovic, Team Leader SW Civil Affairs, UNIFIL.

The training topics varied widely, ranging from awareness workshops on human rights, the National Youth Policy, the roles and responsibilities of the Municipality, to social media strategies, advocacy and leadership, entrepreneurship, arts for social cohesion, non-violent communication, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Workshops on proposal writing, fundraising strategies, and project management were also given to the youth in order to build their competences in developing projects that benefit their communities.

“The project has a strong capacity building component in order to enhance the knowledge, skills and competences of the young women and men for effective engagement in their local communities”, stated Ms. Mona Zoghbi, the coordinator of the project at UNESCO. “We sought to ensure dynamic and interactive training formats, and the topics were selected following consultations with the youth participants to identify their needs and expectations”.

Ali Srour, one of the youth trainees shared his experience, ''the skills and knowledge that we have learned during the sessions covering a variety of topics and themes, are very useful and supply us with required tools and empower our capacities to be a promising active youth, leading our societies to prosperity and development''.

Two field visits were organized to encourage inter-cultural exchange and sharing of success stories of youth-led initiatives. The first field visit to Hazmieh Municipality provided an opportunity for the youth to explore good practices and mechanisms for youth participation in decision-making at local municipal level.Zeinab Aidibi, another trainee, indicated ''It was particularly meaningful hearing from the experience of the Youth Shadow Municipal Council in Hazmieh. This opportunity allowed us to meet the members of the youth council and learn from them about the stages and challenges they went through to achieve their goals''. The second field visit was to Qana to visit the main touristic sites and to explore ways to promote rural tourism and to create youth employment opportunities in the process. 

Following the capacity-building workshops, a closing ceremony was organized to celebrate the achievements thus far and to reflect on the way forward. Brig. Gen. Diodato Abagnara, UNIFIL Sector West Commander, stated in his speech that: "One has to recognize the important role youth plays not only at local community level but in the country and UNIFIL is committed to continue its cooperation with youth in the south".

The ceremony also provided a platform for the youth participants to propose their proposals on youth-led initiatives with the municipality representatives in presence of local community and peers. The ideas include establishing a youth consultative committee to the Municipality, setting up a library and cultural club and establishing an educational center for people with disabilities.