Lebanese society has long been dealing with Lebanon’s controversial Personal Status Law that doesn’t allow an agreement on one marriageable age. Given how hard it has been to prevent and respond to child marriage from a local legal perspective, the Union of Al-Dennieh Municipalities in the North of Lebanon has taken an unprecedented major leap to protect their girls and empower them against this dramatic issue.
That significant leap came in the form of a mindful initiative, equipping the young girls of Dinnieh with things that can help them mitigate or respond to child marriage.
In collaboration with the Canadian Embassy in Beirut, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and RET in Liban, an independent humanitarian organization, the Union of Dennieh Municipalities has just signed an agreement aiming at protecting and empowering their young adolescent girls.
The ceremony, which was held at the Municipality of Bakhoun, was attended by many public figures, including Head of Dennieh Municipalities’ Union Mohammad Saadieh, Head of Dennieh Mayors Mostafa Samad, and Mazen Ayoubi, the Director of Dennieh Center for Care and Development, as well as other Heads of Municipalities and representatives, and Mr. Abdallah, the Director of RET Liban.
Through this agreement, the most unprivileged and vulnerable girls of the region will be now provided with the required key skills and knowledge via a set of vocational training.
The event has marked other priorities as well, such as improving the living conditions of Lebanese people and empowering women in Lebanese communities, while putting more efforts into the social, infrastructural and sustainability components.
This remarkable occasion was a chance for many to shed lights on child marriage and speak up about its damaging and fatal physical, social, emotional and psychological risks.
Child marriage is in fact not only limited to those risks. There are way more consequences that can result in deteriorating a girl’s physical and mental wellbeing and preventing her from pursuing her education and dreams.
Most of the girls, who are forced by their “legal guardians” to get married, tend to have less mobility and less access to services and most probably a weaker support network.
As per the UNHCR data in 2017, 18% of girls in MENA (the Middle East and North Africa) region are married before 18, whilst 3% of them are married before the age of 15. Add to that, and as per the UNFPA data in 2016, married girls aged between 15 and 17 years have reported at least one pregnancy, which leaves us in front of alarming and critical data.
To that end, the word of Mr. Abdallah, the Director of RET Liban, was a spot-on as he indicated the importance of this initiative for Lebanon as a country and for Dennieh area in particular. The Dennieh region has been neglected for so many years and is in thirst for social, economic and human development.
Up till today, and ever since RET in Liban started its journey 3 years ago with its international partners, 20 thousand girls were reached in Lebanon. By 20 thousand girls we mean, 20 thousand empowered, confident, skillful and competent graduated girls.
That is 20 thousand income-generating human resources that would certainly help address child marriage issue, knowing that the economic situation is one of the top reasons why caregivers tend to force their girls into arranged marriages.
In reference to the above, it’s really important to credit and acknowledge the tremendous work and prodigious efforts the non-governmental organizations are doing in collaboration with both national and international institutions.
Lebanon is undeniably and unavoidably in need of this kind of support, given the Lebanese Personal Status Law that prohibits, to a certain level, the empowerment of women and girls and their development due to some rigid and strict religious laws.
It’s therefore necessary and essential for us to light a candle instead of cursing the darkness.