Sarah Awji – Women Deliver
2020

Sarah Awji

  • Age: 24
  •    |   She/her/hers

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Women and youth constitute an unbreakable and powerfully constructive force that societies must prioritize. Women don't need to be empowered, for we are already inherently powerful. What we truly need is to be reminded that it's permissible to showcase and utilize that power in different domains and that our voices deserve to be heard.

- Sarah Awji

Bio

Sarah Awji was born and raised in Lebanon. She is a passionate advocate for all fundamental human rights, and a holder of a Bachelors (LLM) and Master’s degree (MA Research) in Lebanese Law, as well as a Certification of Completion in International Criminal Law from TMC Asser Instituut in the Netherlands.

In her double capacity as an Advocacy and Research Officer for B&Z (for Relief and Development) and as an Advocacy Focal Point (AFP) for RAWSA MENA Network, she actively protects and promotes human rights. She has worked on refugees, children and minors, and women’s rights, as well as sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) and family planning (FP) in the MENA region.

Moreover, her love to give back to her community is evident in her involvement in community work, civil society projects, and contributions to change and development. She had also volunteered with local and International NGOs (such as UNHCR, UNWOMEN, KAFA, Caritas, and Oxfam) as an agent for change.

What ignited your pursuit for gender equality?

Growing up as an ambitious and multi-dimensional woman in a patriarchal society, I couldn't turn a blind eye to the inequities and inequalities that us women face on a daily basis. Majorly, all my efforts towards gender equality till today were driven by my sense of moral responsibility as a woman, to facilitate the way for other women before and after me. In addition to that, I noticed explicit and implicit discrimination in laws and regulations, the absence of women in politics and decision-making positions, the prevalence of misogynistic and outdated narratives, as well as unnecessary stigma around women’s reproductive health rights and decisions in the MENA region. In other words, the current erroneous cultural and social norms that don’t favor women’s best interests nor respect or empower them fueled my decision to advocate for gender issues. Growing up in my community, friends and friends of friends regularly reported to me their violence survival stories or clandestine cries for help. I witnessed live examples of gender-based violence and domestic violence at an alarming rate that I decided to dedicate myself to help from where I am and from what I have. It was also at the same time that “Femicide” or the killing of women was becoming a terrifying prevalent criminal phenomenon in Lebanon.

Please share your biggest wins as an advocate for gender equality.

My biggest wins are measured by my ability to reach and help as many women as possible through my advocacy work. If I have facilitated the path of women before me and after me then I have succeeded. If I was able to lead by example and inspire others and create impact, then I have succeeded. In 2019, I volunteered with KAFA (Enough Exploitation and Violence) and referred abused women to legal and social services that help them escape violence. I also worked with UNWOMEN on qualitative and quantitative research that targets gender-based violence against reporters and brings it to light. I had also participated in projects that empower women’s political life participation and decision making skills. I co-created with my law colleagues a feminist legal initiative that targets discrimination against women in laws and regulations in Lebanon. Currently, I help expand awareness on women’s health and their right to access safe reproductive health and family planning services including the right to safe abortion. I expand awareness through written content, direct advocacy work, and speaking in webinars and conferences. I also advocate for safe return of refugees, their protection, status under international law, and their overall empowerment.

Outside of your gender equality advocacy work, what do you enjoy doing?

I love spirituality and all creative forms of self-expression (dancing, writing) and self-development. I enjoy learning new languages, regularly meditating, connecting with people, going on walks, and traveling. I’m also a huge coffee enthusiast. I enjoy building my legal knowledge by reading legal articles online and researching.

Languages Spoken:

  • Arabic (Advanced/Native)
  • English (Advanced/Native)
  • Spanish (Conversational)

Speaks On:

  • domestic violence against women
  • violence against women in politics
  • youth participation and leadership

Past Awards, Certifications, or Fellowships:

  • International Criminal Law and Procedure from TMC Asser Institute and The Special Tribunal for Lebanon
  • Foreign Language Groups Project Mentor Completion Certification from the UNHCR and the British Council in Lebanon
  • Certificate of Participation in Capacity Building Training on Reporting Cases of Abused Women to Local Authorities from US Embassy, Beirut Grants Office, and FENA (Lebanese Foundation for Empowerment Networking and Advocacy)
  • Certificate of Participation in the Youth Role in Protecting Human Rights Workshop from Makhzoumi Organization
  • Intensive Training by Oxfam Lebanon and Rootslab Initiative on Women and Youth and Transfolks Rights, Initiatives, and Change
  • Awarded a study visit to International Tribunals in the Hague, Netherlands

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