The way cinema and theatre can be utilized to advance women’s rights and accelerate change is set to be a focus of International Women’s Day at the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), amidst several vibrant events bringing together thought leaders on gender equality.
In partnership with the American University of Beirut (AUB), the UN’ regional commission in the Arab region is organizing a range of activities on 6 March at the UN House in Beirut and on AUB’s campus, two days ahead of global celebrations marked annually on 8 March.
“The world is witnessing a change and attitude shift regarding gender equality but it is still not enough, especially in the Arab region,” said Mehrinaz Elawady, Director of the ESCWA Centre for Women. “Arab women are still far from equal pay and are not present in equal numbers in business, politic or the arts.”
Events will kick off with opening statements by AUB’s Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Ms. Nadia El Cheikh, and by ESCWA Executive Secretary Mr. Mohamed Ali Alhakim. Participants, including civil society organizations, government representatives and academia, will enjoy a musical performance by the renowned Moroccan singer Karima Skalli, who will be accompanied by musicians from the Lebanese National Orchestra.
“We are very pleased to welcome so many dynamic speakers and activists to mark International Women’s Day this year,” said Ms. Elawady. “To make a lasting difference, we need to think globally and act locally to ensure an equal, safe and rewarding future for every woman and girl.”
To celebrate other forms of creative contributions, an all-day exhibition called the “Women’s Market” will also take place at ESCWA, featuring products created by rural women, organized in partnership with the Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship at AUB.
Across town in the afternoon, the university will host a roundtable discussion. Moderated by media personality Gisele Khoury, the role of cinema and theatre in promoting women’s rights will be debated by six experts from the region, namely Khalil Zaarour, Lebanese movie director; Mariam Naoum, Egyptian screenwriter; Nadine Khan, Egyptian movie director; Sahar Assaf, Lebanese theater actress and director; Waha Al-Raheb, Syrian actress and filmmaker; and Zeina Daccache, Lebanese theater actress and director.
Meanwhile, to highlight some of the most critical priorities, ESCWA will be showcasing a social media campaign called “Lazem in 2018”—"We must in 2018”—also produced in partnership with AUB. It pays tribute to women who have initiated transformative change within countries of the Arab region and consists of a series of short videos on ESCWA Twitter and Facebook platforms (@UNESCWA).