Amazing Lebanese Change-Makers to Inspire You This September
We’ve put the spotlight on amazing actions being taken by change-makers in Lebanon before. From looking at the local Fair Trade Movement, celebrating our marine life heros, introducing the Cedar Environmental Initiative, outlining the eco-friendly entrepreneurship of Charbella Hosry, interviewing the head of the Middle East Sustainable Hunting Centre, exploring the Al Amal Institute for the Disabled, sharing Koun’s mission of making yoga accessible to underprivileged communities, and promoting the spread of Lebanon’s zero-waste stores (to just name a few), we’ve tried to keep a steady flow of the work being done in our country to keep lifting up collective hopes! Not to mention doing our best to keep our readers informed of the production of our fabulous activists, artists, and other social disruptors and builders of the best kind.
Today, we’re going to continue in this flow and direct you to even more wonderful individuals, businesses, and organizations. We want you to be spoiled for choice, and we want to make sure those choices benefit our communities and our environment whenever possible! So without further ado, we have 5 hero-pick highlights for you:
1. Our Food-Related Recycler, Reducer & Reuser: Jars & Co
An Ashrafieh-based business owned by Claude Berti, Jars & Co is an online kitchen that delivers unprocessed, freshly prepared, healthy food in…you guessed it: jars. Why jars? Because for one, they are more eco-friendly by virtue of being both glass and easily reusable. They also look cool, and make mixing up (by shaking up or shaking out) a meal really simple. From salads and meals to smoothies, nearly everything is delivered in jars. Non-jar items like sandwiches are wrapped in Kraft paper, and waste reduction is further decreased by using paper delivery bags. What’s more, since their main focus is on delivering weekly and monthly meal plans, they give customers incentives to recycle by offering a free salad for every 6 jars returned. But if you don’t return the jars, you can use them for kitchen storage and all sorts of other things! Find out more at the Jars & Co website!
2. Our LGBTQ Safe Space Luminary: Out Beauty Boutique
We know that while Lebanon is known to be a more accepting place in the Middle East for people in the LGBTQ community, we still have a long long way to go. The recent disgraceful controversy surrounding Mashrou Leila’s cancelled Byblos concert being one (more visible) case in point. Being queer in Lebanon is still dangerous, which makes spaces that openly support and create safety for LGBTQ individuals an act of courage and necessity. As such, our hero for this post is Out Beauty Boutique, a salon opened in Monot by Kim Mouawad. Inspired by her own brother’s struggle coming out in Lebanon, and stories from LGBTQ friends who had uncomfortable experiences seeking aesthetic services, Out Beauty Boutique is designed to be a place for anyone to receive cosmetic TLC without judgement. More judgement-free, love-filled spaces are better for everyone! Check out their Facebook page to book or get more info.
3. Our Accessibility Agent: Agonist Coffee Shop
Photo Credit: https://www.facebook.com/agonistcoffeeshop/
When it comes to our acceptance, understanding, engagement, and also employment of members of our community who are differently-abled in intellectual, physical, or other ways, we’re still going through a major awareness-building process. Even the legislative changes that were meant to transition many public spaces with the simple function of wheelchair accessibility have not really been enforced, so it’s largely private businesses and organizations that are leading the way. Hence why we’re highlighting the wonderful coffee shop that is Agonist. In their own words, what they offer is “…more than a Coffee Cup, it is the way we Accept, Include, Respect and LOVE people…”. We’re all about loving people. The accept, include and respect part too! Agonist was set up by Wassim El Hage as a social enterprise that could offer jobs and social inclusion to people with special needs ranging from Down Syndrome to Autism. These opportunities are few and far between in a local economy with astronomical unemployment rates, and they’re hard to maintain with barely any funding or government support. That’s why you should get your cup of joe at this sparkling ray of sunshine in Zalka. Find out more on their Facebook page.
4. Our Anti-Racism Animator: ARM & the MCC
Photo Credit: https://www.armlebanon.org/newsletters/arm-newsletter/lebanese-elections-workers-day-2018
We know that racism is a struggle in Lebanon (and elsewhere) to say the least, and it is especially harmful when it comes to migrant workers and migrant domestic workers here. That’s what propelled a grassroot collective of Lebanese feminist activists to collabrate with members of these communities to launch the Anti-Racism Movement (ARM) in 2010, as a way of carrying out projects to fight racist discrimination. They created the Migrant Community Center (MMC) in 2011, became a registered NGO with staff in 2012, and expanded to include 3 centers in 2016. In their own words, these centers are:
“…free and safe spaces tailored to migrant workers and evolving according to their needs, where they can meet, learn new skills, work together, and access information, resources and assistance. Since their creation, they have been offering free classes and other educational, social, and capacity-building activities, such as language classes, computer classes, health awareness sessions, rights education, advocacy training, cultural exchange events, social gatherings, and various holiday celebrations…
“The MCCs provide the space, tools, resources, and capacity for MWs to self-organize and lead awareness and rights-based campaigns in order to help end discrimination and exploitation, and guarantee protection, rights, and access to justice. In parallel, ARM’s advocacy efforts tackle social issues related to racism, and aim to shift social norms by stigmatizing undesirable attitudes and behaviors, and building support for policy change.”
This is amazing work being done in the face of many challenges. To find out more and support the important work of ARM, check out their website!
5. Our Intersectional Innovator: Kamal Mouzawak
Photo Credit: http://www.soukeltayeb.com/press/
Perhaps one of the better known people on this list, there is so much to be said about Kamal Mouzawak we could easily populate a blog series on his endeavours. But in summary, we’ve chosen him as our intersectional innovator because his projects do just that: they intentionally and unintentionally counter various types of oppression, create safe accessible spaces, foster environmental and community resilience, and strengthen cultural understanding across multiple lines. How? Bon Appetit magazine called him ‘Lebanon’s Celebrated Restaurateur-Hotelier-Humanitarian’, who ‘…aims to showcase the diversity of Lebanese cuisine, and support the women who make it’, through his ‘network of restaurants, B&B’s, and Beirut’s first farmers’ market’.
Inspired by the Slow Food Movement, the farmers’ market Souk El Tayeb brings together all ethnic groups and religions, and supports local producers and artisans. Also inspired by the slow food movement, his restaurant Tawlet, opened in 2009, has a different menu set each day by a different woman with foods from her region and ingredients sourced from there. Since then, Mouzawak has launched other restaurants and other projects, all built on the same premise- what The Guardian has called ‘offering hope through food’. To read more about his amazing work and to check out his other projects, click the article hyperlinks listed above, and give him a google. You won’t be disappointed.
And that’s all for now folks! We hope we’ve excited and lifted your spirits. As always, let us know your thoughts in the comments, and be sure to share if you’ve explored any of our hero-picks or if you’ve got a local hero-pick you think we should highlight in our next change-maker blog.