IPS in the media
Since 1978, Israel, together with its proxy militia the South Lebanese Army (SLA), occupied a 15km wide strip of South Lebanon. This occupation was in contravention of UN Security Council Resolution 425, which called for an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon. For 22 years a guerilla war was waged against the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and the SLA, first by the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Amal movement. Conflict, in the form of exchange of ordnance and the fielding of combat missions, occurred on most days in this region, involving some or other of the military or paramilitary entities. Consequently, they were subject to almost daily conflict in the form of shelling, aerial bombardment, risk of abduction, and injury due to landmines and unexploded ordnance. Thus the local population of the Lebanon/Former Israeli Controlled Area (FICA) border region were exposed to long-term psychological stress and, due to the poor economic and security situation, a lack of adequate education and health care services.
In May 2000, the Israeli and their militias withdrew from their area of occupation and all hostilities ceased. There remain however, social and economic problems associated with the 22 years of border hostility.
The villages surrounding Tibnin are scattered over a range of hills and valleys. Road connections are tortuous and add to the time taken to get from place to place. Some of these barriers also formed a natural division between opposing hostile forces. The villages in the target area were, until May 2000, close to the border with teh FICA. Although many people left the area, a large population remained and continued their mainly agricultural lifestyle, deriving a income from tobacco, olives and other vegetable crop. In addition, some money comes into the area from those who have left and are making a career elsewhere.
There was little investment in the area over the two decades of conflict. Those leaving tended to be those with better education and skills (i.e. a so-called brain drain occurred). The result was that the population is relatively poor, less well educated, with poor services and infrastructure.
In 1997 the UNDP estimated the total population of the Caza of Bint Jbeil to be 100,000, including the FICA. The Ministry of Social Affairs (MoSA 1996) found the average household size in the region to be 4.8 persons. The Ministry also found an over-representation of female-headed household: in the Caza of Bint Jbeil this was 18.5% (compared to a national average of 14%). Such households represent the most vulnerable members of society due to reduced income, lack of education, poor health and nutrition and reduced social status. Many will also be suffering from psychological problems due to bereavement and high stress levels.
The female illiteracy rate is as high as 25% in this region, which is, in general, double the rate of male illiteracy. Women in the area are often given little opportunity to take full advantage of schooling as domestic and agricultural demands usually take precedence.
HMD Response, in collaboration with the local representative of the Ministry of Social Affairs and representatives form the relevant village community committees are carrying out the Literacy Project, which are nine-month classes, availing of previously trained literacy teachers. These teachers will be used following a two-day refresher course, including a review of their previous experiences. The refresher course will be facilitated by the Ministry of Education's advisor on adult literacy and is author of the workbooks.
At the end of the project, up to 105 local people, predominantly women, will have basic skills in reading and writing Arabic.
Thus the main beneficiaries are women, but also men, children, farmers, refugees etc., all from isolated villages in southern Lebanon. Being able to read and write will help to break the cycle of deprivation, open new doors of opportunity for education and training for these people, and begin to empower women in what is largely a male dominated society.
Participation of recipients
Students in previous classes provided valuable feedback, which will be used to enhance this project. They were helpful in identifying the continued demand for training, and have told friends and family members what to expect, and to otherwise prepare them to take part in this project.
The role of women in this project: the four-member planning team contained one woman; of the five teachers, two are female and the student beneficiaries will be over 90% women.
The student's responsibilities after the nine-months course is to practice their newly acquired skills in a range of social situations and to encourage others to take steps to become literate by taking advantage of similar opportunities.
After completion of the project: after participating in two literacy projects, the teachers will have the competence and confidence to take classes themselves (with a little encouragement from outside sources).
How can I contribute to this great project?
The Irish Peace Society is currently (Dec '02 - Jan '03) fundraising money to contribute to the expenses of the project (books etc. are welcome as well), which will be given during the tour to Lebanon (see schedule) in February 2003. If you like to join us in the activities, like the pub quiz, bag packing, love-in in Limerick city, or your (old) primary/secondary school would like to do non-uniform day for the benefit of the Toulin Literacy Project, please contact Marijke Keet.
Or you may want to sponsor us and donate directly into the Lebanon journey bank account:
Account Name: Irish Peace Society Account 2
Account number: 86814813
Sort Code: 904579 (Bank of Ireland at the University of Limerick)