By Laudy Issa
When women in Lebanon are told to “know their place,” the perpetrators of those words are more often than not asking them to stay at home –out of male-dominated sectors and away from leadership roles. Grassroots, women-led organization “Know Your Place” (KYP) boldly co-opted that phrase to mean the exact opposite.
KYP opened its doors to the public on November 5, 2018, using an open mic session at a cafe in Beirut as a way to establish itself from the very start as a community where all women can speak safely and freely.
Co-founded by Samah Hamawi, Shahed Al Hindi, and Sara Gharzeddine, the non-profit organization and HIVOS partner offered a much needed space that empowers women to step out of their comfort zone and challenge everyday stereotypes.
“A KYP woman is the change society has long awaited. She is the future,” the team reminds everyone by plastering these words as the header of their website. Whatever page you’re looking for, you’ll find these words on it.
KYP encourages women to take control of their future by supporting them on their quests to becoming community leaders whose voices are heard and valued. The Women Empowered For Leadership (WE4L) partner provides a range of activities that positively reinforce women’s roles in male-dominated working sectors –from business and research to activism and politics.
Unspoken and Untaught: The Power of Knowledge
Every two months, the KYP community hears the success story of a woman who challenged the roles imposed on her by society. The goal of the Unspoken event is to affirm that, although often difficult, women can indeed pursue their dreams and find their own happiness.
Stories are powerful. They can move us in different ways. By telling a diverse set of focused, real-life stories, accomplished women may inspire others to explore new leadership paths.
To adapt with the raging coronavirus pandemic that’s changing the face of the world as we know it, the most recent KYP talks have gone digital. In early August, Christine Khoury shared her initial fear of becoming a director for live shows with the KYP community in an Unspoken event.
Through a Zoom call, the director addressed how she nearly backed down from her opportunity to direct a live show –a stressful key leadership role in her field.
“But then I thought about it,” started Khoury. “From day one, I chose to take this risk. I chose to dive into this career path. I moved away from my parents and I graduated with a degree in this field despite knowing the risk of me ending up sitting at home jobless, so I have to complete my journey. This is part of my career and I have to actually challenge myself to it. And if this thing scares me, I have to be up to the challenge.”
Watch: "Your Goals Don't Care How You Feel - Christine Khoury - Unspoken KYP Community
Out of fear, she would have settled with lesser positions. But she pushed past her initial discomfort and began directing prime time shows for a local news channel.
“Yes, I was terrified but I was actually doing it,” she said about her first time directing a live episode. After the episode ended, it hit her: She had overcome a fear that she never thought she could get past. Slowly and with practice, Khoury grew more and more distant from her fear of directing.
Sometimes, stories aren’t enough. KYP also recognizes that the lack of skill can offput women from pursuing their goals. Through Untaught, a monthly workshop led by women for women, the KYP community can learn a diverse range of skills that are generally deemed unimportant for women.
From negotiation and public speaking to self defense classes and changing car tires, these KYP workshops allow women to take charge of their own lives.
Stronger Together: KYP Puts Networking Front And Center
By bringing driven women together for their yearly Networking event, the KYP team builds the sincere and long-lasting relationships that are often central to the work of good leaders.
Networking goes past trading information and the know-how to advance in male-dominated careers. In what feels like a society banding together to silence the voices of talented women, KYP uses its yearly event to weave strong alliances among the women of the future and let them know that a strong support network exists for them.
KYP brings together women of all ages and careers from Lebanon, and across the Arab World. These like-minded leaders go on to become vital contacts for each other, in the process building up creative intellect and the support needed to manage difficult scenarios effectively. Equally important, KYP women build up enough self-esteem and courage to conquer their biggest fears.