Lebanon: Girls Camp Focuses on Technology for Empowerment

Global Fund for Women

Equipped with writing, filming and editing skills, “Geekettes” are ready to take back the tech and introduce audiences to an entirely new way of looking at the world: through the eyes of Lebanese girls ages 15-19.

During the weeklong Girl Geek Camp in July, girls from across Lebanon arrived in the city of Kfardebian to learn how to create blogs, use social networks, and film videos on cameras and mobile phones. Building on the camp’s success, the second class of Geekettes arrive this month.

“When I think of technology, I immediately think of data and really complicated stuff,” said 16-year-old geekette, Reem Chamseddine. “Geek Camp showed me that technology could be used to create beautiful things.”

This was the first session of Girl Geek Camp, and trainers spent weeks putting together a program that empowered young girls through technology.

“This is a sensitive age where girls are very much aware of social issues, and are in a transitional period when it comes to career choices,” said Chantal Partamian, a filmmaker and Geek Camp trainer. “I wanted to make them realize that film is a tool of expression, and that the availability of simple video-making tools give them another way to express, explore and shed light on their issues.”

No Such Thing as One-Size-Fits-All Feminism

Girl Geek Camp is an initiative of Nasawiya, a collective of feminist activists in Lebanon who are committed to gender justice and equality. Attracted to their innovative strategies and tactics, Global Fund for Women gave Nasawiya its first flexible grant in 2009 to ensure that young feminists have space to organize and create positive social change.

Members of Nasawiya argue that there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all feminism. Rather, they are a learning organization that listens and challenges its members: men and women who are almost all under the age of 30. In 2009, they put their mission to the test by taking to the streets of Lebanese neighborhoods to talk to over 2,400 women about feminism.

“I am a feminist because I believe in social change, equality and making society and the world a more equal place,” said Partamian, who is also one of Nasawiya’s founders. “I believe in empowerment, autonomy and the right to our own bodies and thoughts.”

Driven Despite Inequalities

Although there have been many gains for women’s rights in Lebanon over the years, almost none have been ratified by law. Discriminatory practices abound in the work place, educational institutions and family dynamics. Nasawiya organizes initiatives like Geek Camp to battle these issues, and show girls that they have a right to a positive self-image and an emotionally and physically healthy life.

“Girls at the camp were the most amazing group of young people I have worked with,” said Partamian. “They are aware of inequalities, and are driven to work towards bettering things.”

Even though the first session of Girl Geek Camp ended, Chamseddine says that the girls take keeping in touch seriously by communicating via Facebook and in person. They are also planning a reunion in 2013.