The Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering- RDFL organized on the 28th of July 2017 a coordination meeting for the national coalition to protect children from early marriage. Representatives of different member organizations discussed the current status of RDFL’s law to protect the children, which was submitted to the parliament on the 28th of March 2017, and strategizing efforts amongst the organizations to work towards their shared cause. RDFL’s vice president, Caroline Succar, introduced the legal status of women in Lebanon, as young girls are often the victims of child marriages, and emphasized the importance of cooperation amongst coalition members to pressure political representatives to vote for the law by swaying public opinion. Also, the legal framework was further elaborated by Outaiba Merhbi, lawyer and project coordinator at RDFL, in addition to the advocacy priorities and plan session moderated by Hayat Mirshad, Head of Communications at RDFL.
The current Lebanese sociopolitical atmosphere was addressed that may hinder the development of this campaign, such as the patriarchal and sectarian structure of Lebanese society, along with the need for greater international pressure to catalyze the glacial pace of the campaign. Stance regarding the issue of child marriage and the impact of governmental and non-governmental organizations was established to gleam an understanding of allies who will help create change.
Different groups of the coalition are to work on the campaign from distinct perspectives, such as the political, which includes framing child marriage as violence; national and international activist groups are to unify their message, evaluating the issue of child marriage from a human and women’s rights perspectives; negotiation with particular sects to unweave the ideological and religious binds that permit children under the age of 18 to marry that causes social, psychological, and economic distress; and swaying public opinion through greater visibility and coverage.
Throughout the meeting, members detailed how their particular initiatives help advocate for this common cause, such as legal services, psychosocial assistance, and research on child marriage in rural areas and social development.
The coalition includes until now 40 organizations, and it was decided on expanding it. Also, the final advocacy plan of the coalition was prepared during the workshop in addition to the Code of Conduct. An official launching for the coalition will be held soon, through a press conference and in the presence of various influential actors in the society.
Photo and text credit: Rand Algosaibi, volunteer at RDFL.