Women-Adult-Youth (WAY) is a Lebanese local Non-Profit organization with a background in supporting Women and youth sectors through all capacity building necessities. The organization was registered in 2009 and consists of 34 registered members and a network of 800 persons.
WAY aims to accomplish sustainable development in Lebanese society; managed by a five-member council elected by a general committee for two years. It implements several activities and projects in cooperation with various Lebanese, Territorial, and International Civil Society Organization in order to accomplish its aims. WAY has directed its activities towards developmental projects that aim at empowerment, especially those aimed at local communities and the youth groups and in various sectors.
WAY is a Lebanese cooperation for development NGOs and Youth which acts locally with communities to promote sustainable social change by improving the living conditions of vulnerable populations, especially Women and Youth, and by acting upon the causes of poverty and inequality. WAY achieves sustainable changes over a medium term in the areas where it acts through the efficient management of resources, the active participation of the community and the involvement of public institutions.
About Tripoli and WAY local environment.
Tripoli is the second largest city in Lebanon and the capital of the North Lebanon district. The city has recently become synonymous with sectarian violence and fear thanks to ongoing conflicts between the neighbourhoods of Bab at-Tabbaneh and Jebel Mehsen, and the more recent twin explosions on August 23, which left more than 40 citizens dead. Although much of this instability has been blamed on the ongoing crisis in Syria, Lebanon’s northern metropolis is also the intersection of three potentially dangerous factors that exacerbate the conflict: poverty, population density, and political marginalization. The combination of these factors has created a climate rife with instability, tension, and often outright violence. Within the greater metropolitan area, these factors are felt most severely within the areas Tripoli (proper), and the surrounding regions of Mina and Kalamoun.
The crisis in Tripoli often revolves around the differences between the local Sunni population and the large Alawite majority. Alawites are a political off-shoot of Shia Islam and the religion of the current Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Violence and hatred, however, have permeated this city since the civil war.
Mina is a neighborhood located on the outskirts of Tripoli with a notable Christian population (Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Armenian). This community has been under duress, since 1984, when TAWHID, an Islamic extremist movement, massacred the local Communist population and took over the cities of Tripoli and Mina. The majority of Christians left Mina in the wake of the Islamist takeover and, despite the fact that the TAWHID were thrown out by the Syrians, have not returned to the previous numbers.
Kalamoun is a predominately Sunni Muslim area located just north of Tripoli. This region is rife with Islamic extremist movements who are actively recruiting youth, particularly after the outbreak of the current crisis in Syria and the general rise of fundamentalism in the broader Middle East. Of course, the growing Islamist sentiments negatively affect the youth’s outlook on the surrounding Christian populations, primarily the surrounding region of Koura.
Lebanon’s northern region is generally characterized as one of the most underdeveloped in the country. Citizens within this region suffer from high rates of poverty and low income levels, combined with high rates of illiteracy. In the low-income neighbourhoods of Tripoli, particularly at the intersection of Bab at-Tabbaneh and Jebel Mehsen, 67% of the families live under the poverty line and over 80% of residents have no social security. In Bab at-Tabbaneh, for example, it is not uncommon for six people to share a two bedroom house. Unemployment rates are notably high, with 20% of Men are unemployed and 90% of women unemployed. Part of the employment crisis may stem from the fact that 30% of residents do not graduate from even the primary level in school and 20% of the population remains illiterate. Unfortunately, the region also fairs poorly in terms of health with roughly 13% reporting a long-term illness and an infant mortality rate at 53/1000.
These areas not only suffer from economic marginalization, but they are also politically marginalized; the political representatives within these areas are themselves very weak as leaders. It is often as if these areas have no real leaders, as even the traditional leadership has lost much of the glow and local attractiveness. Now, the region is becoming a prime location for “new leaders,” many strongly backed by financial patrons, but who lack experience or widespread support. Additionally, many Islamist groups are growing in popularity as they are becoming the best sources for physical protection from violence.
Of course, another side-effect to this political marginalization is the weakening of the feeling of citizenship. Many northern Lebanese are being seduced by the ideas of sectarian belonging, exacerbated by the sectarian tone of the current conflict in their area. As such, it is becoming more difficult for these individuals to envision themselves as part of a larger Lebanese state, a factor that will likely contribute to further instability in the region as these individuals are distancing themselves from practices of “loving thy neighbour” and “recognizing the other.”
The role of youth in the Lebanese political arena, especially in the areas of Tripoli, Mina, and Kalamoun, has been limited. Often times these youth activists are only allowed to engage in certain political events at the behest of a certain political patron. This includes voting either in the parliamentary elections or in the municipality elections, but only for candidates that are selected for them. This lack of political freedom of choice also means that Tripoli’s future leaders are cultivating no real understanding of politics or political participation. This lack of political freedom has surely added to the choice of many youth to join extremist movements where they are seen to have a greater role.
Given the current context within the greater Tripoli area, intervention is needed to both educate and raise youth activists to the role as future leaders. With support—both educationally and practically—these future generations can build the skills necessary to lead Tripoli towards a more peaceful future.