The United Nations and the Italian government announced plans Friday to partner on a project aimed at empowering Syrian refugee women in Lebanon to take leadership roles in their communities.

The initiative, which will be implemented by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia with funding from the Italian government, is part of a larger initiative to “increase the participation of women in peace-building processes so they can make important contributions in their communities,” the Italian Embassy and ESCWA said in a joint press release.

ESCWA will implement the project in Lebanon over the next two years and will receive 200,000 euros ($230,000) in funding from Italy.

ESCWA spokesperson Mehrinaz Elawady said in the coming months the agency will hold focus groups with women from refugee communities across Lebanon in order to develop training based on the needs the women identify, which might include reproductive rights, education, and other topics. The project is part of a larger initiative with 6 million euros of Italian funding, which will include projects in Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt over the next two years.

The initiative focuses on improving the livelihoods of women – both refugees and host community members – by increasing access to sexual and reproductive health services and rights as well as preventing gender-based violence.

The project focuses on holding training sessions for women identified as leaders in their communities on topics including international and local protection for women’s rights, peace and security and post-conflict recovery, as well as relations between refugees and host communities, officials said.

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“Women and girls from Syria are among the most vulnerable refugees and many who have resorted to refuge in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt are heads of households, having either lost their husbands in the conflict or left them behind to protect their family property,” ESCWA Executive Secretary Mohamed Ali Alhakim said. “At the same time, women are not sufficiently involved in the design of relief initiatives targeting Syrian refugees and lack awareness of the rights they have as refugees as well as the potential roles they could play in the peace process and post-conflict recovery in Syria.”

Italian Ambassador Massimo Marotti said the project “confirms the Italian commitment to the welfare of both the Syrian refugees and the host communities who continue to undertake an unprecedented effort that we will continue to commend and support, with a particular focus to the most vulnerable groups, [such] as women and girls.”


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