Since 2019, Women Now for Development, in partnership with Ahel Foundation for Community Organizing, has been supporting the “Let Us Keep Our Childhood” campaign in the Central Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. It is a grassroots campaign fully led by constituencies that are affected by child marriage. The campaign is predominantly led by women, as well as adolescent girls, men and adolescent boys from the Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian communities living in the Bekaa Valley.
The campaign is based on the methodologies of community organizing and participatory leadership, which intersect with our transformative feminist approach, all of which push towards grassroots community change.
In the first phase, about 2,000 families committed not to marry their children under the age of 18. 1,100 of these families hung the campaign banner on the their homes as a collective announcement of their commitment to the campaign’s cause. The campaign also received support from five municipalities in the central Bekaa, and filmed a movie with eight religious and legal figures who spoke against the patriarchal religious discourse that supports child marriage.
In the second phase, the campaign consulted more than 500 families and key people from the local community around child marriage, the campaign’s intervention and the keys for community transformation. Based on the results of these consultations, the campaign built a strategic plan for its third phase, during which it mobilized about 90 advocator men to support the cause. These men were able to stop 60 child engagements, postpone 50 child engagements until the children reach the age of 18, and persuade 110 families to not prepare their children for early engagements.
After the campaign’s inspiring journey of three phases, we produced, in partnership with Ahel Foundation, a case study about the campaign’s work and its aspirations for the future. This study is practical proof for Women Now’s approach and belief in supporting women’s leadership. We hope that this experience will motivate both local and international organizations, especially feminist ones, concerning women’s important roles in leading change