American University of Beirut, Suliman S. Olayan School of Business
Category: Strengthening the Understanding of Effective Leadership Development
Location: Beirut, Lebanon
Accreditation Status: Business
OSB’s Knowledge Is Power (KIP) Project
Through awareness building, this multi-sector dialogue has served as a mechanism to mobilize positive change around anti-sexual harassment and violence policies within national legislation.
Call to Action
Sexual harassment is still endemic, often hidden, affecting employees at all levels and in all kinds of companies. Even in 2017, with the rise of Hollywood elites coming forward to name perpetrators, the number of women in regular work spaces who do not file official complaints because they feel unable and unsafe is staggering.
These feelings are exacerbated in Lebanon, where anti-sexual harassment legislation does not exist. Locally relevant models are desperately needed to introduce relevant and appropriate legislative frameworks. Furthermore, in the absence of protective laws, local companies need to do more to safeguard against sexual harassment in their organizations.
OSB’s efforts through the KIP Project have tried to forge ways forward in this area. As noted by the KIP director in a recent CNN interview, leading multi-stakeholder discussions from the business school is a promising step toward forging local solutions, realizable sexual harassment prevention frameworks, and mechanisms to build safer workplaces.
The KIP Project was a two-year undertaking funded by the U.S. Department of State and launched and managed at OSB. Its purpose was to support multi-stakeholder conversations on sexual harassment in Lebanon, gather data and generate knowledge, and foster knowledge-sharing by creating interactive forums and partnerships.
Ultimately, the focus was to build bridges between the business school and various scholars, civil society organizations, private businesses, and public-sector actors in order to have a broader base to effect positive change. The project underscored sexual harassment awareness and prevention and other issues related to gender equity in conversations—not only on university campuses across Lebanon but also in public policy and responsible business agendas of local SMEs.
The KIP Project activities also included holding multi-stakeholder roundtable discussions, convening gender-in-management reading groups, and funding 15 research studies in the first year.
In the second year, KIP expanded its campaign by launching a number of targeted activities to raise awareness about the need for anti-sexual harassment policies. These efforts included student training about sexual harassment in society and HR training on implementing anti-sexual harassment regulations in the employee codes of conduct at local SMEs.
To effect change at the national level, KIP led two campaigns that heavily relied on a 30-second video made through the collaborative effort of students, faculty, and alumni volunteers. This video was widespread through social media, highway billboards, and a national TV campaign called #Mesh_Basita. The campaign trended in the country and engaged over a million people.
The impact of the KIP Project is still ongoing. Its greatest achievements include the following:
- KIP funded 15 studies that can be accessed and read on the KIP website. The executive summaries have been downloaded over 270 times by various users.
- The May 2017 conference at OSB included over 100 panelists representing 14 departments and seven faculties from the American University of Beirut, 12 additional universities, seven SMEs and multinational corporations, 12 civil society organizations, and 11 public-sector entities. The community impact included over 800 attendees, 40 volunteers, and 12,039,835 impressions on Twitter.
- The campaign received wide media coverage across local and international broadcast channels, and the KIP team was invited for a number of interviews to discuss the campaign. Some of these channels include LBCI, NBN, AnnaharTV, OTV, MTV, BBC Arabia, Al-Jazeera, Al-Hurra, CNN, and many others.
- A number of local and international print and online media channels also wrote about the public awareness campaign, and the KIP team was invited for radio interviews during the campaign period. To date, international news agencies continue to contact KIP for interviews.
- Active partnership to push for legislation is currently being debated in parliament.