NNA – As part of a series of initiatives that have taken place in Lebanon to celebrate International Women's Day 2023 , over 500 women and girls gathered at Tripoli Municipal Stadium yesterday, to take part in an 8-kilometer run that celebrates the strides, both big and small, made by women and girls to accelerate women's empowerment, participation, leadership, and gender equality in their communities, and Lebanon.
The run, titled 'Our Space to Race,' was held jointly by the Beirut Marathon Association (BMA), UN Women, UNDP, UNESCO, UN-Habitat, and UNICEF and generously supported by the Governments of Australia and Canada.
Opening the event, May El Khalil, Founder and President of the Beirut Marathon Association, said, "Space to Race is not just about running the 8 kilometres, it's about taking giant strides towards a more equitable and inclusive society. Awareness and equality is not a one-time event, but a continuous journey that requires our sustained effort and commitment. Just like a marathon, it demands endurance, perseverance, and a collective effort from all of us to create a society where every woman and girl can realize their full potential and thrive."
Welcoming the organization of the initiative, H.E. Andrew Barnes, Ambassador of Australia to Lebanon, shared "Australia is a proud supporter of gender equality globally, and it’s great that we’ve been able to support this event today where Lebanese women can reclaim their public space, run through beautiful Tripoli and hear from some amazing inspirational speakers." Further affirming this sentiment, “Today, Canada joins efforts with Australia and others to demonstrate our commitment to promote gender equality, the empowerment of women and girls, and the realization of their human rights under the universal 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This event is a great opportunity to create awareness on women’s empowerment and to raise our voices in defense and realization of our rights,” said H.E. Stefanie McCollum, Ambassador of Canada to Lebanon.
The event also served to promote and raise awareness of women's and girls' rights to claim and use public spaces equally, inclusively, and safely. “When women are denied equal access to public space, their rights to their communities and cities are diminished, and so are other rights that stem from it, including negatively impacting their mental health, and their ability to support their families and access services. This run aims to celebrate women’s power while reaffirming their equal rights to claim this space and their cities," said Rachel Dore-Weeks, UN Women Representative in Lebanon, on behalf of the UN Agencies involved.
The starting horn sounded at 08:00 am, where the xxx amateur and experienced runners of all ages from Tripoli, Beirut, Akkar and Denneyeh, including first-time women runners under the BMA 510 training programme, as well as embassy and United Nations staff, took off from Tripoli stadium and followed the 8-kilometer route that circled the Rachid Karami International Fair, a UNESCO world heritage site. The event also included a shorter 2-kilometer run for over 70 younger girls under 17 years old.
Among the participants was Lindzi Nader, Lebanese triathlete; Haya Najjad, captain of the Lebanese U16 Girls Football National Team; and Joyce Azzam, elite mountaineer and UN Women Lebanon's National Goodwill Ambassador who shared “Today and after 17 years, after climbing the seven summits and standing on top of the world, my marathon, my mission is to amplify the voices of women athletes like you in Lebanon and the region - to keep waking up, leaving our bed, go training, to keep beating our own personal record, to keep dreaming and believing in our power, to re-ignite our everyday courage to keep going forward together slowly but surely.”
In a run where everyone is a winner, all runners were awarded medals for their triumphant efforts in the race for gender equality and women's empowerment in Lebanon.