“YOUR SUPPORT” in Jordan and “MIN HAQQIHA” in Lebanon, Innovative Solutions to Protect and Promote Women’s Rights

Saturday 6 November 202109:43 am
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"سَنَدِك" في الأردن و"من حقها" في لبنان… حلول مبتكرة لتعزيز حقوق النساء وحمايتهنّ

In Jordan, 69% of men believe that wife beating is justified, and 46% of Jordanian women see that physical abuse against wives is not a problem. The Department of Statistics issued these figures, revealing a major problem that is reflected in the violence practiced against Jordanian women. In 2020, at least 17 women/girls were killed in domestic violence crimes, while the Family Protection and Juvenile Department received 55,000 reports of domestic violence incidents.

Twenty murders occurred within families during the first nine months of 2021, killing 22 victims in total, 12 of which were females, as, according to the Higher Population Council, the rate of violence against women in the country increased by 33% during COVID-19.

In Jordan, 69% of men believe that wife beating is justified, and 46% of Jordanian women see that physical abuse against wives is not a problem.

YOUR SUPPORT to Prevent Violence against Women

The increased incidents of violence against women, especially within families, in a societal culture that accepts and tolerates violence, call for innovative solutions that allow women to recognize their rights and learn about the legal and health measures that they must take. It further requires educating society as a whole about the dangers and consequences of domestic violence.

This is exactly what YOUR SUPPORT does. YOUR SUPPORT is a mobile application that makes it easier for abused women to report the incidents in which they were subjected to violence. Moreover, it facilitates their access to psychological or legal support, or both.

Occupational therapist, Eman El-Baik, who proposed the idea of developing ​​the application and is responsible for the psychological support service it provides, tells Raseef22, “Some women are afraid of going to security centers, because of the consequences they might face.” The application allows them to “request psychological support and legal advice, which would enable them to take practical steps later.”

The development of the YOUR SUPPORT application was a result of a collaboration between El-Baik, founder of the Occupational Therapy House, a center specialized in providing psychological support to people suffering from traumas, and her husband, Moaz El-Shalabi, a software engineer and the owner of Mobiworld, an application development company.

El-Baik explains, “The applications gives you the option of receiving psychological support through online consultations with the Occupational Therapy House, during which women are advised about their current situation, the surrounding risks, and the suitable strategies for addressing violence and abuse crises.”

“How can I fight against violence if I believe that it is inevitable?”... YOUR SUPPORT in Jordan and MIN HAQQIHA in Lebanon are two mobile applications that provide innovative solutions to raise women’s awareness regarding their rights and “options” to combat violence and discrimination.

She adds, “Our center provides occupational therapy and psychotherapy, which allows us to carry out rehabilitative intervention with women, and treat the damage caused by violence, as well as its impact on daily life functions, through therapeutic sessions.”

Another option, she continues, “includes a copy of the woman’s legal rights, how she can demand them, the implications thereof, and the possible term of imprisonment of the abusive party depending on the type of committed abuse.”

El-Baik explains, “A woman can access the application and register her information if she wishes to do so. This way, her data will be saved, and the location of her phone will be accessed and saved in a database to be used when needed or upon request. The user may choose to keep her information confidential.”

She further notes that, “In case the woman agreed to share her data, one of the services offered by the application is connected to the Family Protection Department website (affiliated with the Public Security Directorate). This enables the user at that time to either receive direct consultation from the Department, or submit a complaint through the Department’s complaint centers, if she wishes to do so as well.”

The application contains a “SAVE ME” option, which allows you to call the police emergency line during emergency cases, when the user is in danger. This option can be linked to a word of the user’s choice, which she records by herself in the application. This way, she can open the application, keep the phone nearby, and scream this word whenever she feels in danger in order to seek immediate help. El-Baik explains that they are attempting to develop this feature so that it can be used even when the phone screen is off. However, this option is not available yet.

In light of the widespread cases of abuse against women in Jordan, the developers of the YOUR SUPPORT application are hoping to encourage women to seek appropriate psychological and legal help, and contribute to raising their awareness regarding their rights, according to El-Baik.

MIN HAQQIHA to Promote Women's Rights

Women in Lebanon are not doing much better. During the period of quarantine in the context of COVID-19, a 100% increase in domestic violence cases was recorded, along with a sharp surge in the number of murders of women, increasing from 13 murders in 2019 to 27 in 2020, while 9 cases were recorded between January and July 2021.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. Going deeper, Lebanese women suffer from discrimination on various levels, in family life, at work, and almost in every other aspect.

This inspired the idea of “MIN HAQQIHA”, an application that seeks to address discrimination against women in Lebanon, by teaching them about their rights.

Khouloud Al-Khatib, president of the Lebanese Organization for Defending Equality and Rights (LOUDER), and the brains behind the application as well as the creator of its content, asks Raseef22, “How can I demand my rights if I don’t know what they are? And how can I fight against violence if I believe that it is inevitable?”

“Several obstacles and various challenges prevent a woman from being recognized as an independent entity. Said obstacles have contributed to establishing the traditional distribution of roles, to the extent that they are now considered sacred. “‘Women belong at home and men are meant to engage in the public life’,” says Al-Khatib, adding, “Even today, women are still exposed to violence at home, at work, and in public places. A lot of them work more, yet earn less. There’s an invisible bar at which women stand, regardless of their qualifications and experience.”

“Innovation in itself is something that one cannot achieve on their own. A wise man once said: You can invent on your own, but you can never innovate alone. Innovation requires a collective effort to bring about change, in the sense of understanding each other’s challenges and cooperating with one other.”

Given this problem, and while attempting to come up with a suitable solution, the idea of ​​the application appeared. It includes various materials and is based on a “fundamental vision of the universality and indivisibility of human rights,” according to Al-Khatib, who holds a doctorate in international law.

Al-Khatib sees that “Human rights are no longer out of reach, nor are women’s rights or the means to combat the violence they are exposed to,” pointing out that the “MIN HAQQIHA” application puts “these concepts in her hands, through national laws and international conventions ratified by Lebanon.”

The objective of the application, which is available on mobile phones, is to “establish a rights-based legal reference”, so that every woman can learn about her rights and what the laws guarantee for her.

Al-Khatib adds, “A rights-based approach is based on basic international standards and documents regarding human rights in general, and women’s rights in particular. It compares them to national laws and monitors their implementation nationwide.” She further explains, “It will provide rights-based resources, educational lessons, and practical activities in a simplified format that can be captured by women from different cultural and social backgrounds.” It will also display a box that explains the legal terminology that might be hard to understand, because “legal terms are usually an obstacle to non-specialists who fail in understanding their intended meaning.”

“One of the application’s features, in addition to being free, is that it does not require Internet connection except when installing it on the phone. It is also an interactive application that allows its users to comment on the other cases that they read,” adds Al-Khatib.

“Furthermore,” Al-Khatib continues, “it includes some frameworks that encourage women in Lebanon to participate in politics by recognizing their rights in various fields, learn ways to tackle the challenges that they may face, including early marriage, and protect their right to gain custody of their own children.”

During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the problems faced by women during the quarantine got worse, LOUDER held meetings through communication applications, which led the organization to think of a broader strategy. “While COVID-19 took us from reality to a virtual world, we thought of a strategic way that keeps pace with the world in its next stage, and how to deliver legal information in a way that fits this new reality,” says Al-Khatib.

Hence came up the idea of ​​“delivering information in an easy, interactive, and free method, coming from reliable sources, while providing a legal reference not only based on the legal text, but also on its spirit, based on international standards that guarantee human rights. We developed this electronic application to create opportunities out of the challenges.”

Al-Khatib and the “MIN HAQQIHA” team hope that the application will contribute to raising awareness of human rights, especially women’s, as well as spreading knowledge regarding forms of violence and response mechanisms, emphasizing the importance of women’s participation in decision-making, and pressuring decision-makers to promote gender equality.

Innovation in the Field of Human Rights

YOUR SUPPORT and MIN HAQQIHA are two of 25 projects that have reached the final stage of the iValues ​​competition, out of 280 projects submitted this year. iValues is a project launched for the first time by Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, a German foundation. Its objective is to “Rethink Politics in the MENA Region”, in cooperation with the “Innovation in Politics Institute” in Germany.

YOUR SUPPORT and MIN HAQQIHA are two of 25 projects that have reached the final stage of the iValues ​​competition, a project launched by @fnfmena to “Rethink Politics in MENA Region” in cooperation with Germany's “Innovation in Politics Institute”

The 25 competing projects are divided into five categories: “Democracy and Community”, “Human Rights”, “Regional Development”, “Quality of Life” and “Economy and Jobs”. For each category, a project wins and its team receives the needed support, with the possibility of providing training to the team as needed.

“Innovation creates new ways to view human rights violations, and provides a broader space for awareness and accountability. This is the main foundation of a healthy society, or at least one of the most important components of building a society.”

In addition to YOUR SUPPORT and MIN HAQQIHA, three other projects are competing in the Human Rights category, which are: “CLOCH’ART BY FACE”, an initiative from Tunisia to improve the conditions of drug addicted youth living in marginalized areas, rehabilitate them to integrate into society following their imprisonment or in avoidance thereof, and to improve their access to necessary health care. The “SMARTER BUSES” project from Lebanon, which aims to solve the problem of the informal transportation system in the country, make it more organized and efficient, and ensure its availability to everyone, for the benefit of society, the economy, and the environment. The “WOMEN ARTISTS’ CREATIVE HUB – JERUSALEM,” seeks to give women artists in creative fields, including plastic and visual arts, literature, poetry, music, dance and theater, a “supportive physical and mental space” to continue their creativity and encourage others to express their talents.

This year, the winning projects will be announced during a ceremony hosted in the Jordanian capital, Amman, on October 26.

Yara Asmar, Regional Strategy Manager at FNF MENA, tells Raseef22 that the iValues-2021 competition is an initiative that brings together perspectives of the region’s innovators and the general policy makers, noting, “The region’s approach of general policies and democratic action is in dire need of an update.”

She explains that there are three criteria for evaluating the initiatives/projects nominated and choosing the best, which are “The availability of innovation and the project’s feasibility, its benefit to society and its ability to improve people’s circumstances, as well as the project’s sustainability.”

Dirk Kunze, Regional Director at FNF MENA, stresses, “Innovation in itself is something that one cannot achieve on their own. A wise man once said: You can invent on your own, but you can never innovate alone. Innovation requires a collective effort to bring about change, in the sense of understanding each other’s challenges and cooperating with one other,” adding to Raseef22, “This can be seen through the submitted projects; all of them were developed either as a result of a societal creative process or to address issues in the community that affect many people.”

On the innovation’s role in promoting human rights, he says, “Innovation creates new ways to view human rights violations, and provides a broader space for awareness and accountability. This is the main foundation of a healthy society, or at least one of the most important components of building a society.”

If the YOUR SUPPORT project wins, Eman El-Baik says that received support will “help us cover psychological support services, advertise the application, and expedite its work, as it is still in the process of development,” to achieve its intended objective of “facilitating the work (management) of family protection, reducing violence cases, raising awareness among women of their rights and the ways to obtain them with the least possible harm, and spreading knowledge among them of the importance of receiving psychological and occupational therapy after exposure to abuse.”

As for the MIN HAQQIHA application, the team will work, if their project wins, on adding a “regional dimension” to the application that goes beyond Lebanese laws, reaching the laws of all Arab countries, so that every woman can choose her country in order to receive all the relevant information regarding women’s rights, explains Kholoud Al-Khatib.

They also hope to be able to add “success stories” that recount women and girls’ experiences, and how they have benefited from the application to encourage others to use it and raise their legal awareness.

They also aspire to connect the application to Google Maps, and “It is also a delayed dream that will seek to connect women directly and as soon as possible to the Department of Combating Domestic Violence in the Lebanese Internal Security Forces in case they are exposed to violence,” explains Al-Khatib.

She adds, “The hoped-for financial support may contribute to establishing a core group of lawyers who can provide actual legal assistance to women.” In the future, we intend “to establish a core group of activists to carry out awareness campaigns on the ground in different regions, launch advocacy campaigns, and exercise pressure on decision makers to recognize women as a main effective and influential partner, achieve gender equality through the enactment of legislations, and adopt national strategies and general policies.”

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