Citation
Interview with Zoya Rouhana

Material Information

Title:
Interview with Zoya Rouhana
Series Title:
Middle East Women's Activism
Alternate Title:
مقابلة مع زويا روحانا
Creator:
Rouhana, Zoya ( Interviewee )
روحانا ، زويا ( contributor )
Pratt, Nicola Christine ( contributor )
Place of Publication:
Beirut, Lebanon
Publication Date:
Language:
English

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Lebanese Civil War (Lebanon : 1975-1990) ( LCSH )
Lebanon War (1982) ( UW-MEWA )
حرب لبنان 1982 ( UW-MEWA )
מלחמת לבנון הראשונה ( UW-MEWA )
Women -- Political activity ( LCSH )
NGOs ( UW-MEWA )
Non-governmental organizations ( LCSH )
منظمة غير حكومية ( UW-MEWA )
Women's rights ( LCSH )
Human rights ( LCSH )
Human trafficking ( LCSH )
Violence against women ( UW-MEWA )
Women -- Violence against ( LCSH )
Sulṭah al-Waṭanīyah al-Filasṭīnīyah ( UW-MEWA )
منظمة غير حكومية ( UW-MEWA )
Spatial Coverage:
Asia -- Lebanon -- Beirut Governate -- Beirut
Coordinates:
33.886944 x 35.513056

Notes

Abstract:
Zoya was born in 1955 in the suburbs of Beirut. Her mother was a homemaker and her father was a carpenter and a butcher. She graduated in business administration from university in 1973. Zoya first became involved in women's organizations in the 1980s when she volunteered with the Lebanese League for Women’s Rights. She became head of women's affairs in the Secours Populaire Libanais, from 1984 to 1995. In 1995 Zoya was involved in a public hearing for the Arab Women's Court about violence against women, in preparation for the Beijing Conference for Women. In 1997, she co-founded the Lebanese Council to Resist Violence against Women (LECORVAW) In 2005 she co-founded Kafa: Enough Violence and Exploitation to combat violence against women, trafficking and sexual exploitation of women, and child sexual abuse. Since 2007, Zoya has been part of a group working to pass an anti-domestic violence law in Lebanon. ( en )
General Note:
Funding : Women's Activism in the Arab World (2013-2016). This project, funded by a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship, examines the significance of middle-class women's activism to the geo/politics of Arab countries, from national independence until the Arab uprisings. It was based on over 100 personal narratives of women activists of different generations from Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.
General Note:
Interview conducted on: 29 October 2013
General Note:
Duration: 31 minutes, 4 seconds
General Note:
Language of interview: English
General Note:
آسيا -- لبنان -- بيروت -- بيروت
General Note:
The audio is not complete for this interview due to a malfunction of the digital recorder.
General Note:
Audio transcription by Captivate Arabia, Amman, Jordan , info@captivatearabia.com.
General Note:
VIAF (name authority) : Pratt, Nicola Christine : URI http://viaf.org/viaf/49147457

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Warwick
Rights Management:
© 2013 the Interviewer and Interviewee. All rights reserved. Used here with permission.

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Full Text
Interview with Zoya Rouhana
2013
Zoya Rouhana: all of this you are just going to use to write down your article.
Nicola Pratt: Okay.
ZR: so, my name is Zoya Rouhana, I was born in 1955, and I have been involved in
women issues since late 80s. At first I was involved in an NGO called League of
Lebanese Women's Rights, then I moved to hold the responsibility of women's
affairs in another organization called Secours Populaire Libanais, which had more
wide emergency and health and social care centers, then in 1995, I was involved in
preparing for a public seminar or something, public hearing, we call it public hearing
under the name of Arab women's court, in which we had life testimonies from
women victims of violence, to testify on the violence they have been subjected to
and it was one of the preparatory for the Beijing Summit, and since then, I got more
and more involved, in issues related to violence against women and that's how I
reached here.
NP: Okay, can I ask, were you born in Beirut?
ZR: In the suburbs of Beirut, a village called Shoeyfat.
NP: and you spent your childhood there?
ZR: Yes in Shoeyfat until I moved to the university and then I started my social life in
Beirut.
NP: What did you parents do?
ZR: My father had different jobs, I mean, during the war time out village was
bombarded and they had to move to Beirut so there was a part of his life where he
didn't do any job. And my mother did not work at all, before that he was a
carpenter, a bucher.
NP: What year did you go to university?
ZR: 67.
NP: what did you study?
ZR: Business administration.
NP: in university, were you involved in any activity?
ZR: No, just a moment, because 67... it was in 1973.
1


NP: Sorry.
ZR: I am sorry. Because in 1975 when the war broke out I had to do 2 semesters I
think or something, there was a temporary time when I didn't continue my studies,
okay, so it was in 1973.
NP: so were you forced to postpone your graduation?
ZR: for one semester, I think. Because it was difficult to move around during the civil
war in Lebanon, and after... there was a period where was a succession of fighting,
but I had to liv in the dormitories of the university after this period.
NP: were you involved in any clubs or other activities when you were at university?
ZR: Yes, there was... I don't remember the name, but something related to
environment, I think. There was a social club and what else? Yeah, that's it I think.
NP: What...
ZR: I cant remember the name of the club. Okay.
NP: what's your memories of the civil war?
ZR: memories, there are a lot of memories, I mean, well it lasted for 20 years, there
are a lot of memories, I don't know what to focus on, but sometimes when you think
about it again, you just wonder, what kind of hatred was implanted in the people,
especially those who were involved in fighting to perpetrate such crimes, as the ones
that took place I mean. It amazed... how can these animal instincts in the human
being come out and... I mean, in 1982, there was the Israeli invasion and we had to
leave to another area in Lebanon. I had a child at 6 months age, I mean, at that time.
It was difficult period, I mean, I don't think I had... I passed through any experience
that was not passed by other people, it was the same for everybody. And now when
you hear about what is going on in Syria, you have to remember all the things that
you have passed through, it reminds you everything, reminds you of things you have
passed through in, during the civil war here, no electricity, no food, no bread, no
water...
NP: were you involved in any activities in the civil war like volunteer or like?
ZR: Yes, voluntary first aide, yeah. I remember that I came to Beirut and worked in
one of the centers, it was not a hospital, it was like a emergency, not even
emergency, but what do you call it? Do you speak Arabic? If I speak... a field
hospital...
NP: Field hospital.
2


ZR: Field hospital, yeah. I was, I learned how to stick the needles to do the stitches
yeah.
NP: Stitches yeah. And how did you begin to work in the field of women's issues,
women's rights?
ZR: I had a friend of mine who was involved in one of the women's organizations,
and when I finished the university, she was a colleague of mine where I worked and I
got involved.
NP: What was the first organization?
ZR: League of Lebanese Women's rights
NP: and why ... was it something you were interested in, or something by accident
that you became involved?
ZR: it was maybe by accident, but no, I had these idea in my mind before, since I was
a kid, I could realize the distinction and the inequality that exists in our society
between women and... girls and boys, these things were clear in my mind I mean, I
had to fight.
NP: and how long did you stay... can you say more about the work that you did in the
League?
ZR: summer camps for example, we also had, I was involved in some seminars that
took place... organizing some activities in Beirut area, then I had, I think I had the
responsibility of the financial matters within the organizations, I participated in some
conferences outside Lebanon. Yeah.
NP: were you able to meet other women in the League? Am I correct? The League
had branches outside Lebanon?
ZR: Yes, yes.
NP: Were you able to travel? Was it safe to travel?
ZR: Yes. I mean, the picture is not clear for me for that period of time, I don't know if
at that period I was moving around, I cant remember, but I know that for example,
the camp for children was made in the mountains, but I cant remember if we were
coming and going from one part of the country to the other. I cant remember. I
don't know if they had branches in the eastern side of Beirut, I don't know.
NP: So, when did you leave the League and join your next organization?
ZR: I have a very bad memory; I have to revert to my C.V.
3


NP: Okay, Okay.
ZR: its very, I think I can't find easily my files.
NP: Was it after the war had finished?
ZR: Sorry.
NP: Was it after the war?
ZR: after the war? No, no, it was... it was when there was the Israeli invasion to
Lebanon, I told you that I had to move to another area, and that's when I stopped...
at the League
NP: Your activities at the League... okay. And you started with the...
ZR: Secours Populaire, in 1984.
NP: and you stayed there until 1995.
ZR: when we had this public hearing on violence, then I decided that we should have
an organization focused on fighting violence against women, I mean, doing
everything, and doing nothing at the same time.
NP: How did you get involved in organizing public hearing?
ZR: through Secours Populaire, I was the secretary of women affairs, and they had...
the Secours had connections with other organizations in other Arab countries, one of
those organizations, was called "El Taier", its an international organization based in
Tunisia, and the secretary general was a woman from India, and at Asia, they were
organizing those public hearings so she had the initiative of organizing a public
hearing of the Arab countries, and that's how I got involved.
NP: and did you, did you go to Beijing conference? How was it?
ZR: Yes, because the public hearing was one of the 5 original public hearings taking
place and they chose testimonies from the different regions of the world and made
the world public hearing in Beijing I mean. International public hearing, they got
testimonies from different parts of the world. Yeah.
NP: was it, were you surprised that the success of the hearing?
ZR: I was surprised by the success of the hearing in Beirut, I mean, it was a turning
point really, for many, many women, who are here, not only in Lebanon, it had its
impact on many organizations, there were some organizations lets say from Syria,
Egypt, Yemen, they had Lebanon, no one had worked on the issue of violence before
that. So, there were countries that had more experience in this field like the
4


countries of morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Palestine, they already had started to work on
the issue of violence against women, but there are other countries that had no work
in this field. So, the testimonies shocked the people, who were present and they
realized the importance, I am one of those ho were shocked, and realized the
importance of specializing, I mean having special institutes or organizations focusing
on the issue of violence, as it turned out to be the basic, I mean, the demonstration
we say...
NP: Expression.
ZR: Expression of patriarchy, so some organizations started to work on the issue
after the public hearing that was held in 1995. In Yemen, as I said, Syria, Egypt,
Lebanon, yeah.
NP: did you face any challenges on working on this issue?
ZR: Yes, of course, in Lebanon it was very difficult to, at the time , when we wanted
to establish the Lebanese Organization to fight violence against women, there had
been an initiative taken by 4 or 5 women, I think, and they applied for, to have a, to
register an organization to fight violence against women, and their application was
not accepted, it was turned back., they stopped. We did not stop though. In 1997,
we applied for establishing LECORVAW, Lebanese council to resist violence against
women, and as the other faces, we faced a rejection, but we insisted and we started
to work, because in our law, if 60 or 80 days pass without... I mean, your
responsibility is to give notice to the ministry that you are existing, that you have
owned or established this organization, if they don't reply in 60 days you are not
allowed to work, then you are legal, but... so, that's how we started and how we
were able to open a bank account, and rent a place, but we didn't have a number
from the ministry of interior, it was until after 4 years that we got this number. Of
course, at the same time, at that time, there was a total resistance that this is not
our problem, this is a problem that did not exist in Lebanon, even there was, the first
article in the newspaper that was published, on a case of violence, there was
another article that was written in a magazine, that accused the writer of being a
Zionist because we were destructing the Lebanese society, the image of the
Lebanese society. That was the attitude at that time, but we were able to face
because we had., it was amazing when we start to present ourselves, we held... I
remember a press conference to announce the establishment of such an
organization, and one o the companies provided us with a Cellular number and was
publicized in the press conference and it was astonishing a number of cases that we
did not expect to receive, and maybe we were not as much prepared to handle that
number of cases, especially that we were all volunteers, this help line we had to take
it with us to our work, our job and if you had to meet a woman, I mean if a woman
calls you, you cant just respond to her needs immediately, you had to fix a meting
with her, because everyone of us had her personal job to do. After sometime we
were able to hire a specialized social worker, a full time, she took over and we
started to grow. So I was seeing that the testimonies, the life testimonies that we
presented in our 2 or 3 years of existence, either through TV or newspapers, these
5


were the most effective tool, to prove that this problem exists in our society and
unfortunately, we had to have balance between the different cases, I mean you cant
only take Christians and present them because they will think that we are against the
Christians I mean, the same thing happens with the Muslims, each community says
No, no, its not our problems, go to the other part, so, I mean, this is how we started
and we grew, I mean, now I think we were able to present the problem of violence
against women as a social problem as a local problem and we... now, we are working
with internal security forces, training them on how to handle cases of violence, We
have a law that is waiting to be endorsed by the parliament by the general assembly.
It has been there since, we started to work on this draft law since 2007, and we
passed through very long period of resistance and confrontation with the...
especially with the religious groups, the Sunnis in particular who rejected the law
and did not want the parliament to even study it, yeah, there was a huge campaign
but we succeeded and the law now has passed the joint parliamentary committees
and is now waiting for the general assembly to get approved.
NP: just check, with the Lebanese Council to resist violence against women, was that
organization just offering serviced to women who are suffering from...
ZR: it operated the first listening and counseling center in Lebanon and a hotline as I
said, one of the companies offered us a number, I mean. Yes, we were providing, as
we are doing now, legal counseling, some follow up at the courts, psychological
counseling, social counseling, referrals to some shelters, in addition to the
awareness raising and training, all the societal activities that we had to do in order to
raise awareness on violence against women.
NP: and, were you part of a group of women, were these women also from other
organizations in Lebanon?
ZR: I didn't get that question?
NP: Who was founding the council?
ZR: At first we started through taking a small office at the league of Lebanese
women's rights, then we had, I mentioned at that time, we had to hire a full time
social worker, and our work was growing so we had to take another location, and
the group who is... there were a lot of people who were involved with establishing
the LECORVAW, but the people whose names were registered as the founders, on
the legal papers were about 8, may of them were lawyers.
NP: so you stayed with the council until 2005. So, what were the reasons for leaving
and founding...
ZR: internal conflicts as usual taking place between... there were some, if you want
the LECORVAW was established on, a spontaneous volunteer system, but you know
when you had to present projects and some money was coming in, this create a lot
6


of conflict. And that's why a group, we were a group who left LECORVAW and
decided to establish an organization.
NP: So, when you founded Kafa, did you have certain objectives in mind?
ZR: Of course, we had objectives to continue in fighting violence against women, but
we had also in mind to expand the umbrella of forms of violence that we handle. We
established a unit for fighting the trafficking of women for sexual exploitation, and
also we established a unit for fighting child sexual abuse, because we though our
experience we found out that these are problems that need to be tackled, and were
not tackled yet, from any organization in Lebanon, so, through the cases that were
coming to Kafa and to LECORVAW also, it was obvious that there was a connection
between violence against women and child sexual abuse and the insist cases, that's
why we thought that this issue should also be worked on and presented under the
light, to highlight the problem.
NP: and how did you...
ZR: and also, sorry, after the war stopped there was a tendency for Lebanon to be
involved in the sex tourism and this was very obvious and we had to start working on
the issue of trafficking and sexual exploitation.
NP: have there been studies done about it?
ZR: Now we are doing the study, supposed to be finished in 2 or 3 months, it will be
the first in its kin, not only in Lebanon but maybe in the whole region, it tackles the
different components in the structure of..
NP: Sorry, thank you!
ZR: I mean, who are the women? From which nationality? How are they coming to
Lebanon? What are they different sectors in this general sector, because there is
street prostitution I mean, the different forms that exist, what is the, how are they
organizing if they are organized? What is the role of the general security? What is
the... I mean, it tackles different aspects of the problem,
NP: will this study be made available publically?
ZR: Yes, of course.
NP: How did you get involved in training internal security forces? How did that come
about?
ZR: Ads I mentioned, we started working on the law for protecting women form
family violence in 2007, and at that time we sent... we had to have experienced
people involved in the committee that is drafting the law. We thought that the
7


internal security forces should be addressed if they can be with us and we can
benefit from their experience in this field...
Zoya Rouhana, 29 October 2013, KAFA Office, Badaro, Beirut
(notes from second half of interview, which was not recorded due to an error with
the recorder)
Some important points to remember:
Publicized cases of violence in equal proportion to sect so not accused of being
biased or of portraying violence as the problem of only one sect.
Lebanese anti-violence association split because of conflicts over professionalization.
KAFA: hotline, training of ISF, working on law
Anti-violence against women law changed to family violence law by parliament.
Prohibition on marital rape changed to a 'husband not being allowed to use force to
obtain his 'marital rights'; so law enshrined sex as a 'marital right' for men!
Zoya has never faced any problems in juggling home and work life, although she
knows that some women have.
8


Full Text
Interview with Zoya Rouhana
2013

Zoya Rouhana: all of this you are just going to use to write down your article.

Nicola Pratt: Okay.

ZR: so, my name is Zoya Rouhana, I was born in 1955, and I have been involved in women issues since late 80s. At first I was involved in an NGO called League of Lebanese Women’s Rights, then I moved to hold the responsibility of women’s affairs in another organization called Secours Populaire Libanais, which had more wide emergency and health and social care centers, then in 1995, I was involved in preparing for a public seminar or something, public hearing, we call it public hearing under the name of Arab women’s court, in which we had life testimonies from women victims of violence, to testify on the violence they have been subjected to and it was one of the preparatory for the Beijing Summit, and since then, I got more and more involved, in issues related to violence against women and that’s how I reached here.

NP: Okay, can I ask, were you born in Beirut?

ZR: In the suburbs of Beirut, a village called Shoeyfat.

NP: and you spent your childhood there?

ZR: Yes in Shoeyfat until I moved to the university and then I started my social life in Beirut.

NP: What did you parents do?

ZR: My father had different jobs, I mean, during the war time out village was bombarded and they had to move to Beirut so there was a part of his life where he didn’t do any job. And my mother did not work at all, before that he was a carpenter, a bucher.

NP: What year did you go to university?

ZR: 67.

NP: what did you study?

ZR: Business administration.

NP: in university, were you involved in any activity?

ZR: No, just a moment, because 67… it was in 1973.

NP: Sorry.

ZR: I am sorry. Because in 1975 when the war broke out I had to do 2 semesters I think or something, there was a temporary time when I didn’t continue my studies, okay, so it was in 1973.

NP: so were you forced to postpone your graduation?

ZR: for one semester, I think. Because it was difficult to move around during the civil war in Lebanon, and after… there was a period where was a succession of fighting, but I had to liv in the dormitories of the university after this period.

NP: were you involved in any clubs or other activities when you were at university?

ZR: Yes, there was… I don’t remember the name, but something related to environment, I think. There was a social club and what else? Yeah, that’s it I think.

NP: What…

ZR: I cant remember the name of the club. Okay.

NP: what’s your memories of the civil war?

ZR: memories, there are a lot of memories, I mean, well it lasted for 20 years, there are a lot of memories, I don’t know what to focus on, but sometimes when you think about it again, you just wonder, what kind of hatred was implanted in the people, especially those who were involved in fighting to perpetrate such crimes, as the ones that took place I mean. It amazed… how can these animal instincts in the human being come out and… I mean, in 1982, there was the Israeli invasion and we had to leave to another area in Lebanon. I had a child at 6 months age, I mean, at that time. It was difficult period, I mean, I don’t think I had… I passed through any experience that was not passed by other people, it was the same for everybody. And now when you hear about what is going on in Syria, you have to remember all the things that you have passed through, it reminds you everything, reminds you of things you have passed through in, during the civil war here, no electricity, no food, no bread, no water…

NP: were you involved in any activities in the civil war like volunteer or like?

ZR: Yes, voluntary first aide, yeah. I remember that I came to Beirut and worked in one of the centers, it was not a hospital, it was like a emergency, not even emergency, but what do you call it? Do you speak Arabic? If I speak… a field hospital…

NP: Field hospital.

ZR: Field hospital, yeah. I was, I learned how to stick the needles to do the stitches yeah.

NP: Stitches yeah. And how did you begin to work in the field of women’s issues, women’s rights?

ZR: I had a friend of mine who was involved in one of the women’s organizations, and when I finished the university, she was a colleague of mine where I worked and I got involved.

NP: What was the first organization?

ZR: League of Lebanese Women’s rights

NP: and why … was it something you were interested in, or something by accident that you became involved?

ZR: it was maybe by accident, but no, I had these idea in my mind before, since I was a kid, I could realize the distinction and the inequality that exists in our society between women and… girls and boys, these things were clear in my mind I mean, I had to fight.

NP: and how long did you stay… can you say more about the work that you did in the League?

ZR: summer camps for example, we also had, I was involved in some seminars that took place… organizing some activities in Beirut area, then I had, I think I had the responsibility of the financial matters within the organizations, I participated in some conferences outside Lebanon. Yeah.

NP: were you able to meet other women in the League? Am I correct? The League had branches outside Lebanon?

ZR: Yes, yes.

NP: Were you able to travel? Was it safe to travel?

ZR: Yes. I mean, the picture is not clear for me for that period of time, I don’t know if at that period I was moving around, I cant remember, but I know that for example, the camp for children was made in the mountains, but I cant remember if we were coming and going from one part of the country to the other. I cant remember. I don’t know if they had branches in the eastern side of Beirut, I don’t know.

NP: So, when did you leave the League and join your next organization?

ZR: I have a very bad memory; I have to revert to my C.V.

NP: Okay, Okay.

ZR: its very, I think I can’t find easily my files.

NP: Was it after the war had finished?

ZR: Sorry.

NP: Was it after the war?

ZR: after the war? No, no, it was… it was when there was the Israeli invasion to Lebanon, I told you that I had to move to another area, and that’s when I stopped… at the League

NP: Your activities at the League… okay. And you started with the…

ZR: Secours Populaire, in 1984.

NP: and you stayed there until 1995.

ZR: when we had this public hearing on violence, then I decided that we should have an organization focused on fighting violence against women, I mean, doing everything, and doing nothing at the same time.

NP: How did you get involved in organizing public hearing?

ZR: through Secours Populaire, I was the secretary of women affairs, and they had… the Secours had connections with other organizations in other Arab countries, one of those organizations, was called “El Taier”, its an international organization based in Tunisia, and the secretary general was a woman from India, and at Asia, they were organizing those public hearings so she had the initiative of organizing a public hearing of the Arab countries, and that’s how I got involved.

NP: and did you, did you go to Beijing conference? How was it?

ZR: Yes, because the public hearing was one of the 5 original public hearings taking place and they chose testimonies from the different regions of the world and made the world public hearing in Beijing I mean. International public hearing, they got testimonies from different parts of the world. Yeah.

NP: was it, were you surprised that the success of the hearing?

ZR: I was surprised by the success of the hearing in Beirut, I mean, it was a turning point really, for many, many women, who are here, not only in Lebanon, it had its impact on many organizations, there were some organizations lets say from Syria, Egypt, Yemen, they had Lebanon, no one had worked on the issue of violence before that. So, there were countries that had more experience in this field like the countries of morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Palestine, they already had started to work on the issue of violence against women, but there are other countries that had no work in this field. So, the testimonies shocked the people, who were present and they realized the importance, I am one of those ho were shocked, and realized the importance of specializing, I mean having special institutes or organizations focusing on the issue of violence, as it turned out to be the basic, I mean, the demonstration we say…

NP: Expression.

ZR: Expression of patriarchy, so some organizations started to work on the issue after the public hearing that was held in 1995. In Yemen, as I said, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, yeah.

NP: did you face any challenges on working on this issue?

ZR: Yes, of course, in Lebanon it was very difficult to, at the time , when we wanted to establish the Lebanese Organization to fight violence against women, there had been an initiative taken by 4 or 5 women, I think, and they applied for, to have a, to register an organization to fight violence against women, and their application was not accepted, it was turned back., they stopped. We did not stop though. In 1997, we applied for establishing LECORVAW, Lebanese council to resist violence against women, and as the other faces, we faced a rejection, but we insisted and we started to work, because in our law, if 60 or 80 days pass without… I mean, your responsibility is to give notice to the ministry that you are existing, that you have owned or established this organization, if they don’t reply in 60 days you are not allowed to work, then you are legal, but… so, that’s how we started and how we were able to open a bank account, and rent a place, but we didn’t have a number from the ministry of interior, it was until after 4 years that we got this number. Of course, at the same time, at that time, there was a total resistance that this is not our problem, this is a problem that did not exist in Lebanon, even there was, the first article in the newspaper that was published, on a case of violence, there was another article that was written in a magazine, that accused the writer of being a Zionist because we were destructing the Lebanese society, the image of the Lebanese society. That was the attitude at that time, but we were able to face because we had.. it was amazing when we start to present ourselves, we held… I remember a press conference to announce the establishment of such an organization, and one o the companies provided us with a Cellular number and was publicized in the press conference and it was astonishing a number of cases that we did not expect to receive, and maybe we were not as much prepared to handle that number of cases, especially that we were all volunteers, this help line we had to take it with us to our work, our job and if you had to meet a woman, I mean if a woman calls you, you cant just respond to her needs immediately, you had to fix a meting with her, because everyone of us had her personal job to do. After sometime we were able to hire a specialized social worker, a full time, she took over and we started to grow. So I was seeing that the testimonies, the life testimonies that we presented in our 2 or 3 years of existence, either through TV or newspapers, these were the most effective tool, to prove that this problem exists in our society and unfortunately, we had to have balance between the different cases, I mean you cant only take Christians and present them because they will think that we are against the Christians I mean, the same thing happens with the Muslims, each community says No, no, its not our problems, go to the other part, so, I mean, this is how we started and we grew, I mean, now I think we were able to present the problem of violence against women as a social problem as a local problem and we… now, we are working with internal security forces, training them on how to handle cases of violence, We have a law that is waiting to be endorsed by the parliament by the general assembly. It has been there since, we started to work on this draft law since 2007, and we passed through very long period of resistance and confrontation with the… especially with the religious groups, the Sunnis in particular who rejected the law and did not want the parliament to even study it, yeah, there was a huge campaign but we succeeded and the law now has passed the joint parliamentary committees and is now waiting for the general assembly to get approved.

NP: just check, with the Lebanese Council to resist violence against women, was that organization just offering serviced to women who are suffering from…

ZR: it operated the first listening and counseling center in Lebanon and a hotline as I said, one of the companies offered us a number, I mean. Yes, we were providing, as we are doing now, legal counseling, some follow up at the courts, psychological counseling, social counseling, referrals to some shelters, in addition to the awareness raising and training, all the societal activities that we had to do in order to raise awareness on violence against women.

NP: and, were you part of a group of women, were these women also from other organizations in Lebanon?

ZR: I didn’t get that question?

NP: Who was founding the council?

ZR: At first we started through taking a small office at the league of Lebanese women’s rights, then we had, I mentioned at that time, we had to hire a full time social worker, and our work was growing so we had to take another location, and the group who is… there were a lot of people who were involved with establishing the LECORVAW, but the people whose names were registered as the founders, on the legal papers were about 8, may of them were lawyers.

NP: so you stayed with the council until 2005. So, what were the reasons for leaving and founding…

ZR: internal conflicts as usual taking place between… there were some, if you want the LECORVAW was established on, a spontaneous volunteer system, but you know when you had to present projects and some money was coming in, this create a lot of conflict. And that’s why a group, we were a group who left LECORVAW and decided to establish an organization.

NP: So, when you founded Kafa, did you have certain objectives in mind?

ZR: Of course, we had objectives to continue in fighting violence against women, but we had also in mind to expand the umbrella of forms of violence that we handle. We established a unit for fighting the trafficking of women for sexual exploitation, and also we established a unit for fighting child sexual abuse, because we though our experience we found out that these are problems that need to be tackled, and were not tackled yet, from any organization in Lebanon, so, through the cases that were coming to Kafa and to LECORVAW also, it was obvious that there was a connection between violence against women and child sexual abuse and the insist cases, that’s why we thought that this issue should also be worked on and presented under the light, to highlight the problem.

NP: and how did you…

ZR: and also, sorry, after the war stopped there was a tendency for Lebanon to be involved in the sex tourism and this was very obvious and we had to start working on the issue of trafficking and sexual exploitation.

NP: have there been studies done about it?

ZR: Now we are doing the study, supposed to be finished in 2 or 3 months, it will be the first in its kin, not only in Lebanon but maybe in the whole region, it tackles the different components in the structure of..

NP: Sorry, thank you!

ZR: I mean, who are the women? From which nationality? How are they coming to Lebanon? What are they different sectors in this general sector, because there is street prostitution I mean, the different forms that exist, what is the, how are they organizing if they are organized? What is the role of the general security? What is the… I mean, it tackles different aspects of the problem,

NP: will this study be made available publically?

ZR: Yes, of course.

NP: How did you get involved in training internal security forces? How did that come about?

ZR: Ads I mentioned, we started working on the law for protecting women form family violence in 2007, and at that time we sent… we had to have experienced people involved in the committee that is drafting the law. We thought that the internal security forces should be addressed if they can be with us and we can benefit from their experience in this field…


Zoya Rouhana, 29 October 2013, KAFA Office, Badaro, Beirut

(notes from second half of interview, which was not recorded due to an error with the recorder)

Some important points to remember:
Publicized cases of violence in equal proportion to sect so not accused of being biased or of portraying violence as the problem of only one sect.
Lebanese anti-violence association split because of conflicts over professionalization.
KAFA: hotline, training of ISF, working on law
Anti-violence against women law changed to family violence law by parliament. Prohibition on marital rape changed to a ‘husband not being allowed to use force to obtain his ‘marital rights’ ; so law enshrined sex as a ‘marital right’ for men!
Zoya has never faced any problems in juggling home and work life, although she knows that some women have.





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