On Thursday 24th January, MARCH’s director Lea Baroudi spoke at the Arria Formula meeting for the United Nations Security Council on Women, Peace and Security. The international conference titled “What’s next for Women, Peace and Security in Middle East and North Africa: The Potential of National Action Plans”, was co-hosted by the Permanent Missions of Germany, the United Kingdom and Peru. The meeting was held in New York and brought together diplomatic and ministerial delegations in addition to a number of prominent civil society representatives. The attendees discussed ways of reinforcing women’s role in peace building and conflict resolution processes in the MENA region. The session also highlighted the importance of National Action Plans in implementing resolution 1325 of the UN Security Council.

Through her work with MARCH, Lea Baroudi has managed to develop a unique and unorthodox approach. Her efforts have specifically targeted the youth of the feuding Jabal Mohsen and Bab El Tabbaneh, one of Tripoli’s most marginalized areas. By utilizing art, culture and personal development, Baroudi created a distinctive set of tools to help individuals transcend conflict and tap into a well of potential. Moreover, her holistic method has empowered young women and has succeeded in transforming them from war victims into actors of change. She was not only able to breach the city’s conservative environment but also promote sustainable stability and reconciliation. Baroudi took her acquired expertise to the Arria Formula meeting where she shared bits and pieces of her journey and gave valuable recommendations as well. She started her intervention by describing how one single theatrical play helped foster social cohesion. “Love and War on the Rooftop” forged activists out of former fighters and generated a common goal. After inaugurating “Kahwetna”, a cultural café on the former demarcation line, MARCH had embarked on an inclusive renovation project that allowed men and women to work hand in hand as equals. On the topic of Lebanon’s upcoming National Action Plan, Baroudi noted that it would not reach its full potential without some fundamental changes. MARCH’s director pointed out that so long as Lebanese laws favored a patriarchal system, women were going to continuously be excluded from peace processes. She clarified that “women cannot fulfill their full potential without the support of proper legislation”. Additionally, she commented on the need for better cooperation between government institutions and non-governmental bodies stating that the government should attempt to capitalize on the know-how of NGOs instead of alienating them. She explained that “by utilizing the expertise developed by CSOs, the Lebanese government will equip itself with an innovative set of tools. It could then replicate that successful model throughout the country by tailoring it to fit different regions”. Perhaps her most powerful moment was when Baroudi affirmed that women are quintessential elements of the field. She noted that women’s roles must not be confined to boardrooms and summits and that their presence on the field was an asset not a liability. By alluding to her own experience, Baroudi stressed that women must be perceived as negotiators, strategists and mediators. In her final statement, she pleaded the Security Council to help Lebanon flourish and emphasized on the country’s vital role in the Middle-East saying, “My country acts as a barometer and harbors a very special, yet frail, model”.

Baroudi’s powerful speech depicted the story of how one woman successfully defied social and political stereotypes.