Lebanon: Training women for male-dominated professions

Nusaned is a community-based organisation that believes that the power to create change comes from working together. Its aim is to help the most vulnerable Lebanese communities become self-sufficient by providing access to food security, building shelter and providing sustainable opportunities for productive economies. In the framework of the project supported by Feminists in Action, Nusaned offers to women the opportunity to train themselves for male-dominated professions. Interview with Gaida Nawam, NUSANED co-founder.

What are the specific “masculine” professions in which you train women, and how did you choose these professions based on the needs of the local job market?

Nusaned has extensive experience in the shelter sector having rehabilitated more than 2,200 units, residential and commercial, including schools, hospitals, restaurants, core of buildings, community spaces and heritage buildings after the August 4th Beirut Blast. Nusaned had also rehabilitated more than 450 units in Akkar out of which 150 were also adapted for people with specific needs.  Nusaned is also part of the LCRP shelter sector core group and its program is led by experienced architects and engineers. This is why we chose shelter related “masculine” professions to train women in, such as carpentry, electrical works, and artistic paints, having in mind that these women might be involved in actual rehabilitation works whenever a grant is given.

What are the main challenges facing women seeking to enter traditionally male professions in Lebanon?

Women themselves, before starting the training at Nusaned Hub, were reluctant to join the program, thinking that these works are not ‘feminine”, they require physical strength. Also, the prospect of working in an environment surrounded by men can be frightening.

How does your association address the gender stereotypes and prejudices that may exist in society towards women working in male-dominated professions?

At Nusaned, we proactively address gender stereotypes and prejudices through our comprehensive Gender Policy. Our NGO is committed to promoting gender equality and providing equal opportunities for all, irrespective of gender identity. To challenge stereotypes, we integrate a gender perspective into all our programs and initiatives. Through gender needs analyses and data collection, we understand the barriers women face in the field, especially male-dominated professions. Gender mainstreaming ensures our training programs are inclusive and supportive. We provide extensive gender sensitization training to staff and volunteers, fostering a culture of equality. By empowering women in male-dominated professions, we strive to create a more inclusive and equitable society.

What skills and qualifications do women acquire through your training programs, and how do these skills help them to overcome the challenges of the current economic crisis?

Through the training programs, women acquire diverse skills and qualifications that equip them to face the challenges of the current economic crisis. The PSEA (Protection Against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse) training sessions raise awareness about gender-based violence and empower women to protect themselves and others. In the electrical repairs training, women receive theoretical and technical knowledge, enabling them to perform electrical repairs and installations, thereby enhancing their employability and income-generating potential. Similarly, women who undergo carpentry training learn about woodwork, joinery, and furniture repair, which enables them to venture into the construction and carpentry industry. The paint training equips women with artistic painting skills, allowing them to explore opportunities in the creative arts sector. Moreover, entrepreneurship training imparts business and marketing strategies, as well as leadership skills, enabling them to establish and manage their businesses effectively. These skills empower women to become self-reliant and enterprising, giving them the tools to overcome the adverse impacts of the economic crisis.

How does your association ensure that trained women find employment or self-employment opportunities in the trades for which they have been trained?

Nusaned board of directors is part of the three main private sector networks in the country, namely RDCL, LPSN, and Irada and is constantly in touch with them for job placement opportunities.  Nusaned is also in close coordination with major organizations in the area around the hub, such as schools, hospitals, restaurants who ask for workers from our pool of beneficiaries. Nusaned supported the 30 beneficiaries (participating in the Entrepreneurship training) to prepare professional CVs, which allows them to apply for job vacancies. The trainings also offered strategies to possible workfields that the beneficiaries are skilled enough to apply for.

How do your training programs take into account the specific needs of women from disadvantaged or marginalized backgrounds, who may be particularly hard hit by the economic crisis?

We carry out an assessment to ascertain the socio-economic background of the beneficiaries and where they live and ensure that we adapt training schedules to guarantee that they have enough time for their personal and family lives (especially in women-led households). We also do a constant follow-up on their progress during the trainings, through conversations with the trainees on challenges. This ensures that the curriculum is targeting their needs.

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