THE MARSA CENTER: A POSITIVE APPROACH TO SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH

Associations advocating for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) commonly face obstacles and taboos. This is a daily battle for the Lebanon-based MARSA Center. MARSA uses positive messages to demystify our relationship with our bodies and remind us that sexuality should be enjoyable and fulfilling.

MARSA approaches sexuality in a positive light when addressing sexual and reproductive health and rights.” MARSA’s awareness-raising programs explore all aspects of the body and sexuality without preconceptions, thereby deconstructing prejudice and preconceived ideas.

“Our awareness-raising workshops meet the needs of our participants by inviting them to actively engage in discussions where they can voice their deepest concerns.” MARSA believes that a successful outreach session is one of sharing and engagement, with participants leading the discussions and association members moderating accordingly to ensure the accuracy of the information and insights being shared.

MARSA stand for sexual and reproductive health prevention.

SOCIAL MEDIA TO HELP REDUCE MISINFORMATION

According to MARSA, social media is an increasingly valuable tool to broaden the public’s awareness of SRHR. Social media platforms provide a contextualized, straightforward, inclusive, and positive channel for disseminating scientific and factual information. “This is crucial in improving public knowledge on key topics like STIs, birth control, and consent, while also helping break the taboo around sexual issues.”

Social media is a powerful vehicle to foster social change, reduce misinformation, and challenge popular misconceptions about sexual and reproductive health. It also empowers the public and helps create nurturing communities where people can find their answers.

However, choosing the right wording and content is a crucial prerequisite to getting our messages across. So MARSA has developed a strategy to select messages ensuring maximum scientific accuracy and contextual relevance while considering the needs and limitations of the local population. For example, the center prefers to communicate in the local Arabic dialect instead of literary Arabic, because the Lebanese dialect is more widely accessible. All messages are also translated into English.

MOBILIZING DESPITE THE ONGOING BACKLASH

A wave of anti-rights rhetoric has swept through Lebanon, mainly targeting diversity and gender issues, and driven by a few political and religious elites. There has been a clear “backlash” against the organizations and people working to promote gender and diversity rights. Although one might rather see the glass as half-full, it is obvious that this backlash is a response to the milestones that Lebanese civil society activists have achieved in recent years. The reaction is particularly virulent because there is now a greater awareness of sexual and reproductive health issues, including among the most marginalized communities.

“This backlash will not stop civil society from actively promoting better access to SRHR, even if it has to adjust to the ever-changing context!”

About MARSA:

MARSA is a sexual and reproductive health center that promotes equitable and inclusive access to non-stigmatizing SRHR services for all in Lebanon. MARSA’s objectives are to:

1- Reinforce local healthcare and make it inclusive by training healthcare providers
2- Increase knowledge of sexual and reproductive health and rights through research.
3- Fight against stigma through educational and non-stigmatizing media campaigns on key topics
4- Promote empowerment through group awareness-raising sessions
5- Improve access to sexual and reproductive health services by providing inclusive and anonymous sexual and mental health services.