2021 Annual Report

Ahel - 2021 Annual Report

Our dear Ahel community,

We wish you a healthy and hopeful new year. We write to you to share our 2021 annual report. Below is a summary to encourage you to read it.

Compared to many, we at Ahel see a different perspective of the Arab world.

We see the region through the eyes of those who pursue collective action for dignity and justice. The people who cross paths with Ahel have hope for change and faith in people power. Otherwise, they would not have resorted to us to grow their leadership and enhance their organising of collective action. From Yemen and Iraq to Morocco and Mauritania, there are hundreds of stories of people’s campaigns and movements building power and demanding change and often succeeding in their pursuit. This reality exists, even if it is not center stage in the media and the prevailing discourse. True, the systems of injustice and oppression are still strong, but this reality is present and significant. We want you to know about it.

    • The Let me Keep my Childhood Campaign in Lebanon’s Bekaa is organized by families, specifically women who were married off as children. We have been accompanying them for two years. In their second year, they succeeded in recruiting men as organizers and advocates and stopped 55 child marriages in their community. This campaign is special because it built leadership among the Syrian refugees and it grew a vocal community against child marriage within a community that was silent. It is also special because Women Now, the organization that supported it, empowered and restored power to the people in a different way using community organising methodology. This is the reality that we see in Lebanon despite the debilitating political and economic conditions.
    • The Ebni Campaign in Jordan and the Better Tomorrow Campaign in Gaza, both led by people with disability and parents of people with disability, were able to achieve significant successes. We see them organising despite the restrictions on the freedom of expression and assembly dominant in most Arab countries. The Ebni Campaign, with its perseverance collected 12,000 signatures demanding the Jordanian Minister of Health provide vocational care to people with disability in the health clinics. They tried with two ministers and they were able to obtain a commitment from the current minister. They are now monitoring the implementation. Better Tomorrow Campaign was able to increase the number of people with disability in general assemblies of associations and organizations in the Gaza Strip. We also started working with a group of mothers from Jerash Camp in Jordan who, for the first time, organised themselves in public action and demanded health insurance for their children with disability. They have not yet succeeded in achieving their demand. But collecting the voices of their community in the camp and submitting them to the prime minister’s office is a success against the despairing voices around them saying “don’t try there is no use”.
    • The Families for Freedom Campaign tirelessly continue to demand know the fate of those Syrians who disappeared. In its sixth year, we enabled its members’ convention that aimed at consolidating and expanding its leadership teams present in multiple countries. Like many political campaigns in the Arab region, success in this context means continuing to organize and continuing to grow participatory distributed leadership. While their opponents bet on their withdrawal, they stay organized so that when the political opportunity appears, they are ready to jump on it, and ready to be the address worthy of their cause and their right.

These are examples of civic social and political campaigns that crossed our path. There are also many examples of outstanding leaders who were part of our learning programs. Take the leader against administrative detention in Yemen who two years ago managed to get some administrative detainees freed and continues to bring more out of prison. Take that women labor rights leader working for teachers’ pay in Jordan and for garment workers in Egypt. Also that leader fighting for freedom of expression and gender in Morocco. Our online course titled “Leading and Organising Collective Action for Change” in its third year brought together 81 leaders from the Arab world. Our in person “Feminism and Community Orgnaizing” course introduced us to 25 women all younger than 35 years, who see their struggle not only against the oppression of women, but against the patriarchal and capitalist systems and any oppression over any life.

Some say that these organising efforts, campaigns, and leaders are small unconnected stars floating in a dark space. To some extent that’s true. Therefore, we focused our last year on connecting them with each other for solidarity and for resilience so that they can shine stronger together. We nurtured the Athar Network for Community Organizers in the Arab World. A network of nearly 100 leaders. Although not yet two years old, it focuses on continued learning of its members, solidarity between their causes, and protection of the reality they create and the hope they cherish.

We hope that you will read our Annual Report for 2021 and get in touch with us.

Last year was a special year for Ahel.

    • It marked our ten year anniversary. To honour the achievements and challenges, and to honour the campaigns and leaders we worked with, in November we organized three events to celebrate and share lessons learned. It was a month full of richness and love. Thank you to everyone who was there for us in the past years.
    • Last year our team grew and our organization became more stable. We also took some 20 leaders through the second level of training and learning to become campaign coaches and community organising trainers. They are not Ahel staff but they are our secret to scale. With them we can train and accompany many more campaigns, movements and change initiatives in the coming years.

We conclude by saying that in the past we were not eager about promoting our work and left space for the campaigns and leaders we accompanied to tell about their successes and how Ahel contributed to it. However, out of responsibility towards those who are seeking change and struggling with challenges, we changed our approach. They should know about community organising and its practices and that Ahel can accompany their journey. Thus we invested in our relationship with the media, activated our social media platforms, relaunched our website and produced visuals on organizing, campaigning and shared leadership. Season one of our Athar Podcast tells success stories of people-led social and political campaigns in the Arab world.

We are ready to introduce you, your organization, community, school or union to the practice of community organizing. We will show you examples of how it succeeded in restoring power and leadership to people as they demand and introduce change. Please contact us on info@ahel.org.

Wishing you a new year that brings with it health and justice,

Nisreen Haj Ahmad and the Ahel team

Click here to Download the report.

[wonderplugin_pdf src=”https://ahel.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/English-Report-Ahel2021-web-3.pdf” width=”100%” height=”820px” style=”border:0;”]