Cablegate: Monitoring and Evaluating the International Rescue

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958:N/A
SUBJECT: Monitoring and Evaluating the International Rescue
Committee in Lebanon

REF: PRM Monitoring Instructions of 9/26/03

1. As requested ref, regional refcoord and Embassy Beirut
poloff monitored PRM-funded activities at Association Najdeh
on March 10. Association Najdeh is the local implementing
partner of the International Rescue Committee and the
Women's Commission for Refugees for the sexual and gender-
based violence program for refugees in Lebanon (cooperative
agreement SPRMCO03CA117). Regional refcoord, PRM/ANE
program officer and Embassy Beirut polFSN also met with
Association Najdeh officials in October 2003. Monitoring
report is keyed to questions provided ref.

A. On March 10, we met with Association Najdeh Director
Leila el-Ali, Project Coordinator Fatme Chahine, Project
Assistant Buthaina Saad and Counselor Majida Jawad. The
meeting was held at the project office, a one-room office
near Association Najdeh's headquarters.

B. Association Najdeh is doing a good job of conducting
domestic violence education and awareness activities, a key
PRM-cross-cutting policy goal. However, the persistent
social stigma surrounding domestic violence as well as the
limited economic ability of abused Palestinian refugee women
to seek assistance are limiting Najdeh's ability to fulfill
some of the project's objectives. For example, only 18
documented abuse victims have sought Najdeh counseling to
date, while the project calls for 100 cases by August 31,
2004. Only two cases (of the 50 projected in the grant
agreement) have sought legal assistance from Najdeh since
September 1, 2003. The problem appears not to lie in
Najdeh's implementation of activities funded under the grant
(counselors, staff training, advocacy and regional
coordination) but instead is rooted in the deep-seated
cultural and social reluctance to address these issues and
the economic inability of Palestinian refugee women to
escape difficult family situations. Continued education and
advocacy activities could be one way to address these

C. Since the project began on September 1, Najdeh has
implemented the following activities:

- Five counselors have been hired and are available to
provide domestic violence counseling in Najdeh's 26 program
centers in Palestinian refugee camps.
- Najdeh has organized domestic violence workshops in all
12 refugee camps, attended by 163 participants (132 women
and 31 men).
- 18 documented domestic abuse victims have sought
counseling from Najdeh (vice a goal of 100 for the project).
- Two domestic abuse victims have sought legal assistance
from Najdeh (vice a goal of 20 for the project).
- Najdeh has designed and is now printing Arabic-language
posters and pamphlets that advocate for the protection of
women and management of domestic violence.
- Najdeh has held coordination meetings with UNRWA in
Lebanon and Syria, with local Palestinian NGOs in Lebanon
and with other women's rights NGOs in the region through the
Arab women's NGO network Aisha.
- With separate funding from Columbia University, Najdeh
has conducted two additional studies on domestic violence in
Lebanon's Palestinian refugee camps (similar to its 2000
study), and is coordinating with UNRWA to share its findings
with UNRWA-supported women's program centers in Lebanon and
- A representative from the Women's Commission plans to
travel to Lebanon in late March to conduct training for
Najdeh staff on codes of conduct and reporting. The Women's
Commission representative will also participate in a Najdeh
workshop on domestic violence for other local NGOs.

Najdeh runs its domestic violence program from the 26
kindergartens and vocational training centers it operates in
Lebanon's 12 refugee camps. Due to the deep-rooted cultural
sensitivities surrounding this issue, Najdeh has introduced
the topic of domestic violence in an indirect fashion,
holding workshops on gender, discrimination and basic human
rights, an approach that el-Ali says lays the groundwork for
addressing the more difficult issue of domestic violence.
Trained Najdeh counselors also can judge from participants'
reactions whether there might be serious problems at home,
and then can follow up with private conversations after the
workshops. In cooperation with Palestinian refugee youth
centers, Najdeh has also formed "men's clubs" where it
introduces domestic violence issues to men. Najdeh staff
commented that men in the rural Palestinian refugee
communities (especially in the Bekaa valley) seem more
receptive to women's rights.
D. Najdeh admits that it is falling short on some of the
key project objectives, due largely to social and economic
realities in the camps. Women are often pressured by
extended family members not to seek outside assistance for
domestic violence issues or fear that they will face social
stigma for seeking counseling assistance. (In Palestinian
refugee culture, either social or psychological counseling
is viewed as shameful, according to Najdeh Director el-Ali.)
Moreover, due to the many restrictions on Palestinian
refugees' economic activities in Lebanon, refugee women
simply do not have the resources to either seek legal
recourse or leave their abusive spouses. Project director
Chahine reported that while many women have expressed
interest in pursuing legal options, all but two were simply
unable to afford this option. The options available to
refugee women victims of violence are further limited by the
lack of any safe houses in Lebanon. Abused women in Lebanon
simply have nowhere to go, el-Ali explained.

Najdeh also is having a hard time meeting the extremely
ambitious project goal of recommending and adopting new
policies to address domestic violence among Palestinian
refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Jerusalem, the West Bank and
Gaza. While Najdeh meets regularly with counterpart NGOs
from throughout the region, Najdeh Director el-Ali believes
the more important, and perhaps more achievable goal, is to
change refugees' attitudes toward domestic violence,
creating an environment where women are able to seek
counseling and address their problems without feeling
pressured that they have "shamed" their families. In
Lebanon, el-Ali added, refugee women also need the economic
ability to both seek legal assistance and, if necessary,
leave their spouses. With the many legal restrictions
imposed on Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, refugee women do
not have the economic independence required to exercise
their full rights.

Finally, it is important to note that Najdeh, as a member of
the Palestinian NGO Forum in Lebanon, has a long-standing
policy of not accepting funds from the U.S. Government.
When asked by refcoord to address this issue, el-Ali
explained that Najdeh's financial relationship is with the
Women's Commission for Refugees (the direct recipient of
funds under this grant) and not with the U.S. Government.
El-Ali has not publicized the U.S. role in supporting this
project and does not seem willing to acknowledge it in the
local NGO community.

E. Due to restrictions on USG travel to the Palestinian
refugee camps, we were unable to see the full team of
project staff in action. Nevertheless, the team of five
counselors plus two project managers seems appropriate for
the range of activities covered under the grant.

F. The project office is just one-room, located near
Association Najdeh's headquarters. The room contains a
desk, computer, files and a small meeting area. The office
appears to be used on a regular basis and all equipment
appeared to be in good working order. No equipment was
purchased with USG funds.

G. N/A

H. Continued education and advocacy activities seem to be
required before Palestinian refugee women feel comfortable
seeking the counseling and legal assistance programs called
for under the grant agreement. El-Ali said that greater
economic resources were also required to give refugee women
the independence required to either seek legal assistance
or, if necessary, leave their spouses. Should PRM decide to
provide additional funding for this project in FY04, we
recommend that greater emphasis be put on education and
advocacy activities. With an estimated domestic violence
rate of 18 percent in the camps (according to Najdeh's most
recent survey), the victims of violence likely will seek the
activities supported in the grant only after they are more
comfortable addressing the topic.

2. Embassy Beirut cleared this message.


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