Since 2005 Brigitte Chelebian, the founder and director of the Lebanese organisation Justice Without Frontiers, has been fighting for women's rights. With a background as an attorney of law, Brigitte Chelebian is helping women through legal support.
"Legal support, social support and psychologically support are all necessary means, but legal support is the most important; it is the only way, the women can change their lives," the Justice Without Frontiers founder said.
And that is exactly what Brigitte Chelebian and Justice Without Frontiers are doing; helping women and children change their lives through legal support.
"We work as a council for women who encounter the law and we are able to provide legal support, legal consultation and legal representation in court. We have our legal hotline where we are receiving calls from women who are in conflict with law, has questions about papers, wants to divorce or who are victims to domestic violence."
From victim to defender
The organisation is also hosting awareness sessions. Brigitte remembers one specific woman who turned up at one of the sessions. The woman was a victim of mental and physical domestic violence. Her daily life was a nightmare getting beaten up by her husband, to whom she had been married for 20 years, and who was the father of her two children. Before meeting Justice Without Frontiers, she didn't know anything about her rights or how the law could protect her against her violent husband. A few weeks after the woman had been taking part in one of the organisation's awareness sessions, she contacted the organisation to get legal consultancy.
"She didn’t have a lawyer or any money to go to court, so we represented her. She got the custody of the children after facing her husband in court," Brigitte Chelebian told.
Today this woman has helped other women by sharing her story in Justice Without Frontier's sessions.
"Now I close my eyes to remember the first time she came in. Her situation was really different back then. Today she is much more confident about herself and now she is advising other women," Brigitte Chelebian said about the woman.
Creating awareness is the first step
A lot of the women, Justice Without Frontiers work with, are victims to domestic violence and a new domestic violence law has been implemented in Lebanon in April 2014 with the purpose to advance women's rights and safety. But according to Brigitte Chelebian most Lebanese women doesn't even know about the new law and are not aware off their rights.
"We have this new law which vulnerable women are not even aware of. We still have women who are victims of domestic violence. Just yesterday a woman got killed by her husband. She was a victim of domestic violence and she was killed because she decided to leave her house. When she returned, her husband killed her." Brigitte Chelebian told about the situation for women in Lebanon.
"When women are killed by their husbands, it is an issue related to education. We have to create awareness about the issue. That is why we work with men too and why we have established a man forum. Women can't make the change alone," Brigitte Chelebian from Justice Without Frontiers stated.
Justice without Frontier works together with ActionAid ARI to create awareness about domestic violence and the new law.
"Together with ActionAid, we will be working on the new law, conducting awareness lessons for almost 600 women and provide free legal consultation and support. It is very needed because there are many vulnerable women who doesn’t have access to justice," the Justice Without Frontiers director said.
Furthermore Justice Without Frontiers and ActionAid is creating awareness among religious leaders, NGO's and justice police who has to adopt to the new law in their work to protect women. In addition, the two organisations are working on creating a group of lawyers who are specialised in women's rights and domestic violence.