The momentum of the mentoring calls has created regional and country chapters where former delegates meet with mentors on the ground. The first in-person meeting took place in Lebanon in November. You can read the bios of the women in the mentoring session below.
While Hala Hanna, Lina Farraj, and Mada Arslan participated in the Wellesley College institute in the summer of 2011, their shared learning and networking did not stop there. These three women met with a mentor, Hayat Arslan, introduced to them by GWLI, to talk about the ways they could use their insights from the WPSP at Wellesley and move forward.
Arslan impressed upon these women the structural and ideological obstacles that stand in the way of women entering into public service. While women excel in public administration and civil society, there are numerous obstacles standing in the way of their move into public office. Not only are there patriarchal mentalities from society, but women are also not being aggressive as they fight for public office because they are concerned with familial responsibilities and financial considerations. In addition, the status quo of political structures makes it difficult for people to accede to political positions.
Arslan also commented that women stand in the way of themselves. She argued that women are not aware of their potential because the space for realizing that potential must still be carved out and shaped. In order to achieve this, Arslan called for stronger solidarity among women, more awareness on the mass level, more coverage in the media, and outreach of this information to villages and towns.
The way to overcome these obstacles, Arslan argued, is to build awareness and enact reform, specifically of electoral policies. She emphasized that reform will affect women’s lives, as long as women become active and engaged in bringing about that reform.
While leading numerous organizations and coalitions, H. Arslan urges for more organization of the women’s movement in Lebanon. She campaigns for women’s political rights and is involved in media and public relations. In forging new bonds for strengthening the women’s movement, she encourages the emerging women leaders to listen to and consider fresh ideas that will not only attract younger generations, but also address the obstacles standing in the way of women of today.
Lina Farraj works at the Center for Civic Engagement at the American University of Beirut. She has participated in community organizing and has been active in inspiring civic participation.
Mada Arslan has been active in boosting women’s electoral empowerment and raising awareness for women’s rights and social issues. In her work at the Society of Lebanon the Giver, she encourages women to seek financial independence to secure their freedom.
Hala Hanna has worked with numerous think tanks, NGOs, and government bodies in reform management, leadership, and gender equality. Her experience ranges from helping Liberian government and their aid policy to motivating young Lebanese women to move into the labor market.
Hayat Arslan (a member of GWLI’s network) is the founder and current president of the Society of Lebanon the Giver and the Committee for Women Political Empowerment. In addition, she holds numerous other leadership and administrative positions in multilateral, educational, and international organizations. Through these diverse roles, she is committed to increasing women’s political and economic empowerment.