“2020 began with exceptional circumstances that kept us at home and apart, and threatened our freedoms that were already limited. It was a crossroads for many activists, and leaders in the Arab world. Will they continue to organize and claim their rights in these circumstances, or will their campaigns and movements stop?
We discovered that in these compelling circumstances there was a hidden opportunity. We found hundreds of leaders in the Arab world eager to learn how to organize their power, their people and collective action for health, labour, social or political rights.
– 71 leaders from in 11 Arab countries graduated from the Organizing and Leading Collective Action for Change 2020 online course
– 73 colleagues of the graduating alumni took the Public Narrative workshop to improve their leadership and their control of the narrative around their cause.
– And we launched a new program on leading teams in campaigns and movements, since it’s an important issue for resilience. The program’s curriculum included the role of the team coordinator, distribution of leadership roles, decision-making processes, and horizontal accountability.
In response to the growing demand for our organizing support, along with the continuous spread of the pandemic, we launched an online program, called Musanada, in the second half of the year. The programme included:
– 8 Webinars on community organization, social movements, labour organizing, neighbourhood committees, and creative tactics, attended by more than 550 people.
– Community organizing workshop attended by more than 40 people from 8 campaigns or organizations.
– Open coaching hours, in which 10 campaigns and community initiatives from Morocco, Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Palestine sought coaching.
Although teaching and training are important, as in the past nine years they are not our primary focus at Ahel. Our primary focus remains to be: strengthening organizing of grassroots campaigns and movements towards justice, equality and freedom in the Arab world.
We closely accompanied and coached a group of campaigns. These campaigns are not ours, nor do we lead them. We simply coach and accompany their leaders who struggle with the problem and benefit the most from the solution.
Some campaigns we coached closely:
– Stand up with the Teachers (Qom) Campaign for the Rights of Female Teachers in Private Schools in Jordan whose leaders we have accompanied and coached over the past three years
– The campaign for Lesatna Zghar, led by tens of Syrian refugee women, to mobilize hundreds of others against child marriage in the Bekaa, Lebanon against child marriage.
– Haddak campaign, led by Jordanian men and women who work with parents to protect children from sexual abuse and sexual harassment
– Labour organization for Pharmacy Assistants Jordan in cooperation with the Union of Health Services Workers, resulting in a position paper on their labour demands.
Some campaigns we intervened to coach or train at certain milestones in their journey:
– The Movement of Families for Freedom, which demands justice for Syrians who have forcibly disappeared.
– Organizing neighbourhood committees in Asfiya village in occupied Palestine to build local leadership.
– Ebni, a Jordanian campaign for people with disabilities and their families, who are demanding free rehabilitation governmental services.
Some campaigns were established by students of the Organizing and Leading Collective Action for Change course during their learning with support from their teaching fellows, such as:
– Teqta’neesh campaign, in the West Bank that demands reliable public transportation to some villages.
– The Beach is Ours campaign to clean up the Gaza beach.
In all the campaigns and movements we work with, we find gender based injustice, especially the authority men exercise over women as a fundamental, a challenge lying not only in the face of justice in all areas but also a challenge in a groups’ dynamic. Therefore, this year we invested in an experiment; the Popular Education Program with 60 youth (males and females) focusing on gender justice and toxic masculinity. Using Paolo Ferriere’s approach, participants develop consciousness to forms of authoritarianism that they either face or practice in their lives and its impact on themselves and on those around them. Once completed, and if successful, this practice will be added to our methodology in coaching campaigns.
All this work puts a responsibility on Ahel to research and to create knowledge. Our research this year included:
– Researching organizing: such as comparative study on models of self-governance in membership based organizations, another on organizing neighbourhood committees, and lastly, on creative tactics in light of social distancing and quarantining in a pandemic.
– Documenting our knowledge: such as a case study on coaching the Qom campaign as well as a Leadership and Team Guide for the campaigns.
One of the most exciting knowledge projects this year was the Athar Podcast. In partnership with Sowt. In every episode we host a leader from an Arab movement, in which they would share with us successful practices and lessons learned. The first episode was about Li Haqqi’s movement in Lebanon, the second about the BDS movement, and the third about the Jordan’s Teachers Union. We will continue to publish one every month. Follow us!
We plan to multiply this impact in 2021!
For two reasons: This year, we implemented two structural programs aimed at doubling the capacity of Ahel Organization. The first brought us 10 new trainers on community organization, and the second brought us 8 new coaches of community organizing. All new trainers and coaches are from 5 different Arab countries.
Also this year, we established the Athar Network for Community Organizing in the Arab world, forming 4 leadership teams in four different countries. As well as opening the door for membership, in which 50 people have registered. The mission of the network is to strengthen the belief in power of people and to increase opportunities for achieving justice, equality and freedom through collective action. The objectives of the Athar Network are summarized in three concepts: Resilience, Better Organization and Protection.
We are grateful to our colleagues on the team, our partners, and our advisory board Ahel Ahel.
Looking forward to 2021 which marks our ten years anniversary.
We wish you a new year full of hope.