Lebanon News

New center aims to help employ Sidon women

Flint sits in a sewing classroom at the new center in Sidon. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

SIDON, Lebanon: Swiss Ambassador to Lebanon Rose Flint Thursday inaugurated a center for helping Sidon women get jobs as part of a broad project to look at new ways to combat a lack of female representation in the work place.

The center will provide women training in specializations like computer work, nursing, math and entrepreneurial skills. The emphasis will be placed on the technical skills the job market is demanding for poor and displaced women, who have difficulty finding work.

“This center is for women who are the most vulnerable from all nationalities, it helps women in receiving their right place in society – and they are the pillars of the society,” Flint said at the inauguration of the new center in Sidon.

The Swiss Embassy, Danish Refugee Council and Forum of Palestinian Women in Lebanon backed the project and also commissioned a study to help the center determine exactly what skills the job market needs and what local employers look for in an applicant.

The report found that if women are equipped with broad skills they can have access to a new market of managerial positions many women now feel are out of their reach. The study surveyed 1,239 women in Sidon to determine the current composition of the women’s workforce in the city and their feelings on their job search.

“They should encourage women to ‘aim high’ and provide commensurate training as their male counterparts,” the report reads.

Basic professionalism and life skills are what employers said they need to see out of candidates before hiring, the report said. And with training in basic job-hunting tasks like CV writing and interviewing, women who are not competitive for a job could become easily employed.

Underprivileged women in Sidon need more opportunities to get advanced training for specialized jobs in accounting, medicine and business, according to the report. Typical fields many Sidonians associate with women, such as beautician, hairdresser and caterer, are over-saturated with applicants while more technical fields are lacking applicants, the report said.

After getting those skills, the report encouraged the women’s center to help fight gender bias in hiring practices.

“Project partners should also provide awareness raising to empower women to recognize and address gender stereotyping in the workplace and on reducing behaviors of victimization,” the report reads.

“Discrimination against women in general, and sexual or gender-based violence in particular, are widespread phenomena in the Arab Region. Despite some advances in women’s rights, discrimination against women and SGBV remain unaddressed concerns in Lebanon,” it said.

The report provides a very detailed look into the Sidon job market. Many women reported encountering exploitation, sexual harassment and low pay while searching for or after accepting a job.

Activists and career centers can work as watch dogs to help remedy the situation, according to the report.

“Finally, employers should also be made aware that corrupt labor practices will not go unreported, and project partners and vocational training centers will begin black-listing known offenders,” the report said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 12, 2012, on page 4.




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