“As a gender advocate, I want to empower other women”

Sara El Outa is a feminist activist and human rights defender from Lebanon, working as an advocacy coordinator at the Lebanese Democratic Women’s Gathering (RDFL). Sara is one of gender advocates from Middle East, Northern Africa and South Asia participating in SI Leader Lab. She wants to empower more women to speak out loud as she has chosen to do.

Sara applied to SI Leader Lab wanting to become a leader when it comes to gender advocacy. She knew right away that if she got accepted she would be able to meet a lot of influential leaders in the same field.

How have you benefited from the SI Leader Lab network?

I have benefited a lot from the network and feel that I now have many close friends from different countries. They are my sustainable support system! I consider myself a resource to them, and they are a resource to me. For example, I have taken a lot of advices from a fellow gender advocate from India on how to campaign in my home country against domestic violence based on successful experiences in her country.

I have also discussed with participants from the MENA region about the possibility of creating a regional network as we face the same challenges. I have also benefited from the co-facilitators in SI Leader Lab, who all were alumni and former participants from previous leadership programmes, and it was inspiring to see that they still were engaged.

What are the main changes that you as a gender advocate want to achieve?

I have faced a lot of challenges in my life. A couple of years ago I was so afraid to speak out. Since then, I have had a huge personal transformation and I have become louder. Through the SI network, I could speak out very transparently about what I faced and how it affected my whole life. I shared out loud without shaming myself of what had happened to me. All of this is helping me to one day become a role model for other young women to share their experiences and break the silence.

As a gender advocate, I want to empower other women to speak out, to say no to violence and to be loud. Because whenever you´re loud, you will shake the patriarchal system. And when being loud, you surely need the support of others. And honestly, I feel that I have the support of my new friends from SI Leader Lab.

 What are the takeaways so far from SI Leader Lab? Can you share some examples?

I have plenty of takeaways! But if I must choose, it would be the labs we had on public narrative and community group organising. Because, through community group organising and public narrative, you can restructure your organisation and try to teach or guide everyone to be the future leader and how to talk to the public and community. In addition, we are now a global network in which we all feel very close. Everyone is inviting everyone else to come to their home countries. Now, I have 57 other friends all over the world which are very inspiring to me.

Where do you see yourself in the future – what’s your goal?

I will go back to Lebanon, where I work with a community-based NGO that I would like to restructure. I learnt the new models on organising community groups and I am willing to apply it along with my colleagues to strengthen on our work and impact. This will help me build up a new structure and new policies together with the volunteers. I will create an environment for volunteers to become leaders, motivating them to start initiatives and share ideas.

As for the far future, I want to take more specialised courses on how to organize campaigns and apply for membership in global movements to be able to shift from where I am now to a very well improved position in the field of gender equality. And ideally, I would like to become a gender expert one day.

For more information about SI Leader Lab and how to apply.