May Makhzoumi on women empowerment: WE ARE STILL FAR FROM ATTAINING 100% EQUALITY
1- In the 21st century, women empowerment has become a hot issue around the world, how do you see women’s endeavors to seek equal treatment with men and to aggressively compete in the political, economic and social realms?
As you rightly said, it is across the world, women are trying to change laws traditions & corporate management issues. Training is an important aspect to prepare women to be involved in political Arena as well in the business field. Unfortunately, we are still far from attaining 100% equality. Persistence is the key.
2- How much it meant to you to be offered the Scientific Efficiency Award for empowering women?
It is an honor to receive the award. It is encouragement for others to always seek experience by educating themselves on the go and not turn down opportunities. I can say that myself I gained from every position I held, from every conference I attended from every article or book I read, and mostly from on the ground experience.
3- On the road to achieve empowerment, what various challenges women face and try to overcome? How to achieve gender equality? Eliminate discrimination in women’s promotion and task allocation?
The highest challenge is overcoming the perception that men are superior to women. This is a universal mentality, dominating more in the 3rd countries like Japan, traditions still rule. Nowadays, there are more women presidents, Prime Ministers, CEOs and they are proving to be advancing their countries and companies better than male peers. The more examples we have the world to see, other women will have the confidence to prepare themselves in all aspects of life. This will be a catalyst in moving forward and imposing change of laws to give women more equal rights and enforce gender audit to make sure that women are getting same chances.
4- How much in your own milieu (Social, the Foundation) you try to apply and stick to the tenets of Women Empowerment, being a strong believer in the values of empowerment of women and all individuals alike?
Socially, females surround me, having two daughters and four granddaughters is alone a challenge. As a family we have never made them feel there is a difference, they have same education, same social exposure, same chances and it is up to them to find the right path for them in life. As for the Foundation, we have about 90% of female staff. Therefore, you can imagine the positive vibes. Our aim to perform best in all aspects & to do that is to keep on top of things by continuous training, learning new skills, venturing into new experience as individual bases and holding each responsible for their work. The Foundation as a whole entity we aim to attain recognition and high achievements for our team & for our beneficiaries, who are majority women.
5- Why in countries and societies like ours empowerment will remain strictly connected to the uplifting of economic, social, and political status of women? Till when women will suffer disempowerment?
As we already know its traditions & laws that are the hindrance, not the women themselves. The percentage of women graduating from universities is always equal to men, when you look at numbers joining work force it is less or at position less than their qualifications. Men advance faster up the ladder too. In some professions, you find there are women like judges lawyers diplomats, yet you do not find them in high positions. Even in the official sector, women are venturing in SME and agro industries, yet they are not recognized. Only way is law change to get any benefit and see improvement.
6- About the programs concerned with: Healthcare- Environment and development- Relief Projects
The Foundation established in 1997. I was voted Vice President and by 2000 president. Coming from business, I opted to run it as such and not as amateur NGO. First thing we worked on was the bylaws, authority Matrix, job description, proper audit, and all legal issue. Second step was apply to attain ISO certification for business management, which we acquired in 6 months. That was a record. Along the years, we kept our high standards throughout all levels. With time when we joined the Ministry of Health Primary care clinics, we had to go through Canadian Accreditation and we got it with excellent performance. All due to the high standards, we follow.
Now there is ISO for NGOs and we have been awarded Silver aiming for Gold soon. This includes other than procedures, risk management in all fields. Over and above, we are always updating all our procedures to follow new standards and protocols.
During Corona crises first thing we did was create a Risk Committee to have rules to guide our staff – Also raising awareness to our beneficiaries and communities.
During the years we had to work through hard circumstances, but since October 2019 and then COVID-19 crises, it was the biggest challenge we faced. We had to adapt to social distancing, working remotely, planning and adapting to online training, meetings etc., and follow upon Micro-Credit Loaners, carry on with picking recycled material under our initiative of Environment and Development Program ( Yalla Nufruz/ Let us Sort). Of course, we postponed many activities and projects, but we directed our attention to raising awareness about protection, healthy eating and mental stress. We carried on vaccination campaigns other than clinical duties. When restrictions are easing, we will resume many of our centers based activities and outside projects.
If it was not due to the readiness, and dedication of our team in all programs, Health Care, Environment & Development, Micro credit, Vocational Training & Relief Unit. I alone could not have succeeded. One cannot lead without cooperative team that has the stamina and this will to rise to any challenge.
7- How the Makhzoumi Foundation reacted to the spread of Covid-19 and mobilized to reduce the chance of spreading the disease, what were your strategies to provide health care to the elderly? What supportive economical and medical measures you provided needy families with?
As I mentioned our COVID-19 risk committee, mobilized staff safety was our first concern. Setting the rules of protection buying all required from sanitizers masks etc. Also increased frequency of professionally sanitizing the clinic and got our own kits to sanitize all our premises and even other offices of our Group. We got the thermometer to check everyone, and gun spray sanitizer. We followed strictly all guidelines. Wanting everyone to be safe & sound.
The pharmacy was open daily providing all required for chronic patients & elderly. Social Aid was distributed, from food rations to coupons, to clothes etc. and working with international organizations and local NGOs for a wider outreach.
As for our Microcredit program we were one of the first to give loans in Lebanese Pound and kept in contact with all to check on them and rescheduled their payments due to the economical situation.
8- Lebanese women in the face of the crisis: How much can women do to alleviate the impact of natural and economic crisis? About your dealings with international agencies and organizations in this respect?
Well Lebanese women have really been working hard to call for new ways to deal with corruption calling for updating laws and raising the awareness about women in lock down increase violence and coordinated with Internal Security Forces having a hot line. Many initiatives started with female youth to help alleviate poverty, voluntarily distributing food, plants, clothes etc., even during lock down. Joining efforts with NCLW (National Commission for Lebanese Women to have an input regarding the suggested economic plan in issues related to women.
9- Achievements you are proud of, unrealized dreams?
I am proud of getting to where I am now cause hard work, dedication and confidence- True if it is not for my family standing by my side and my husband encouragement that helped me through my journey.
Unrealized dreams! Dreams are not in my hand but never the less I dream that peace prevails and life becomes beautiful with no hatred, no poverty, no ignorance, nothing evil!!! A UTOPIC life on earth, have always been my dream and aspiration
10- To each individual in life his code of moral and humanitarian and ethical values, what is yours? What is the humanitarian approach you keep reiterating around you in the Foundation and that you try best to teach to your Granddaughters May Junior, Yasmeena, Nour?
I have grown up in a family that values good ethical behavior, built on love and respect, built on confidence and humbleness. I came from a conservative family, prayers were practiced, fasting, Zakat and haj.. Sadaka is the act of giving any time without expecting anything in return. Growing in a community where you learn right from wrong and difference between good and evil makes all the difference, how you behave.
These are my values that I lived by. I have raised my children and now my granddaughters to be truthful, not to hurt anyone, to be considerate to others and have faith, in them-selves and in what they can achieve. I try to install these values in them, but at the end it is their choice how they follow…