Between the 19–26 March two second-year ComDev MA students, Abigail Leffler and Yee-Yin Yap, accompanied by the course coordinator Oscar Hemer, visited Beirut, Lebanon. The goal of the trip was to acquaint themselves with the socio-political climate of the country, and conduct interviews for their theses projects in connection with UNICEF Lebanon’s refugee strategy, No Lost Generation.
The Production Project offers an opportunity to M.A. students who are pursuing the new 120 credit ComDev master’s programme to be creative while receiving hands-on experience in the production of a viable Communication for Development (C4D) media products.
Abigail and Yee-Yin’s Production Project will be linked to the Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices (KAPs) study that is currently being conducted by a team led by ComDev’s Ronald Stade, on behalf of UNICEF Lebanon. The KAP Study aims to discern a baseline study for UNICEF’s continued work in the country, and to recommend key C4D interventions for five of its key programme areas: Education, Health, Youth, Sanitation and Child Protection. It is hoped that some of the data from the KAP Study could be used to inform their production project initiatives, and their final Production Project presentation will be made available to UNICEF Lebanon.
During the trip, the team met with UNICEF’s C4D unit’s key staff members Julianne Birungi and Ibrahim El Sheikh to discuss its priority areas, which are education and the different types of violence perpetrated against children in Lebanon. A meeting with UNICEF Lebanon’s Social Media Officer, Sara Sandra Chehab also shed light on UNICEF’s work and media user statistics.
The team also met with Maurice Aaek, who is with the BBC Media Action in Lebanon, who provided an invaluable source of information relating to media consumption channels of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and in the region. Other meetings included Dr Nabil Dajani, the Acting Head of the American University in Beirut’s Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Media Studies as well as C4D pioneer in Lebanon, and Dr Dima Dabbous, Assistant Professor in Communication at the American University in Beirut. Topics discussed with Dr Dajani touched upon the importance of the burgeoning field of C4D in the Arab World and the significance of interpersonal communication channels such as ‘folk media’ – the dissemination of information through traditional modes of communication such as cultural and performance arts, in the development field especially in customary settings.
The discussion with Dr Dabbous centered on the representation of Syrian refugees, especially of women and girls in Lebanese media, which provided insight on possible stereotypes and prejudices about Syrians by the host community. The team also had the occasion to interview a prominent rap artist in Lebanon by the name of Nasser “Chyno” Shorbaji to learn of various cultural projects that are led by musicians and artists to bridge the widening gap between the different ethnic groups in Lebanon. These include the use of rap songs as expressions of freedom and hope by the youth of the region.
Although the visit was a short one, the team felt that it was an eye-opening experience that provided a firsthand account of the work of as well as the challenges faced by international and local organizations on site. The visit also imparted on the team strong impressions of the delicate convivial balance between the many groups in Lebanon but in particular between the host community and the refugee populations.
Yee-Yin Yap wrote the trip report with input from Abigail Leffler and the ComDev team.