In mediation, Jana finds a way to build peace in Lebanon
After helping young girls express themselves through theater, Jana Abi Morshed is utilizing the power of mediation to resolve conflicts and promote non-violence
Jana Abi Morshed, 58, has used theater to give a voice to girls in Lebanon for many years. She teaches performing arts, and uses it as a method to address the wounds of violence in Lebanon; to spur dialogue, to build peace and to support community harmony. In doing this with communities, she has witnessed first-hand the impact of violence and conflict on people’s lives, both at the national and local level. After leading a peace march in 2019, she decided to shift her work – from theatre to working exclusively on issues of cross-community dialogue and peace. Through a one-year scholarship from UN Women, in November 2021 she began a mediation training with the University of Saint Joseph's Centre for Professional Mediation.
“Women and girls are the disproportionate victims of violence and conflict in Lebanon. Part of addressing this is standing up for them, and for peace in our communities; to play a role in bringing people across divides to dialogue spaces and propagate a culture of non-violence and conflict resolution. I was fortunate to be selected for the scholarship along with other women. The mediation training taught me about the power of dialogue, mediation, and its importance in conflict resolution, especially after the Lebanon Civil War. I learned different approaches to mediation that can be used in our communities, including performing arts”, says Jana.
Mediation as a powerful tool for resolving conflicts
After tensions escalated to clashes between Ain El Remmeneh and Chiah in November 2019, two neighborhoods separated by a single street that endured years of sectarian armed clashes during the Lebanon Civil War, Jana invited women from both areas to meet. They met and agreed to organize a ‘March for Peace’.
“I told them, we need an act of solidarity between the rival communities, and for that, we need to invoke the spirit of women's defiance against violence. Opposing my idea at the start, women from both communities started joining the march gradually. So, as we marched on, crossing from one neighborhood to the other, we felt that we were breaking down the barriers of hate, violence, and disagreement while delivering the message of love, peace, harmony, and co-existence. With every step, we, the women, achieved great success as mediators and peacebuilders”, says Jana.
“With this success, I understood the power of dialogue and mediation to resolve conflicts and that women can trigger actions for peace in their communities. That was the time I started actively looking for more training on dialogue and peacebuilding and learnt about UN Women and its work on women’s inclusion in peace and security in Lebanon”, she adds.
To support efforts to foster peace and stability in the country, and to support women's increased engagement in mediation and conflict resolution, UN Women is supporting local female community mediators across Lebanon, grouped in 11 local networks, to work on addressing community conflicts in real time, and to promote a culture of non-violence.
“We need as many actors and allies as we can gather working for peace, dialogue and de-escalation of conflict in Lebanon. It is fundamental to tag our humanitarian assistance with the important work of addressing Lebanon’s past and current social tensions,” says Rachel Dore-Weeks, UN Women Representative in Lebanon.
There is hope amid challenges
“Identifying the root causes and drivers of conflicts and addressing injustice as a basis for disagreements are keys to establishing long-term peace. We work with communities so that they resolve their issues using dialogue and non-violent communication. Despite our efforts, there is still a long way to go. I, along with many fellow women, will keep striving to find ways of using mediation to resolve conflicts in our communities and play our part in achieving a safe and sustainable future for Lebanon,” Jana adds.
*Established to credit the most skilled mediators and to sustain mediation networks, the Conflict Management and Resolution program was delivered by the UN Women in partnership with the University of Saint Joseph's Centre for Professional Mediation, and with the generous support of the Rebecca Dykes Foundation and the Government of Finland.