UNIFIL supports local cooperatives and helps strengthen relationships between peacekeepers and communities
On July 2, cooperatives all around the world celebrated the 100th International Day of Cooperatives under the slogan of “Cooperatives Build a Better World.”
Cooperatives are helping to do just this right here in south Lebanon. To commemorate this day and celebrate their contributions, UNIFIL hosted an exhibition of traditional Lebanese food and handicrafts at its headquarters in Naqoura this week.
On 6 July, Brigadier General Iyad Al Alam, Commander of Lebanese Armed Forces Civil-Military Cooperation (LAF CIMIC) visited the exhibition together with UNIFIL’s Head of Mission and Force Commander, Major General Aroldo Lázaro. Along with hundreds of peacekeepers, they admired the handicrafts, savoured homemade delicacies, enjoyed cultural performances, and purchased local products and handmade gifts.
“I would like to point out the critical role that cooperatives can play in reinforcing the role of rural women, especially considering the challenging circumstances that Lebanon is currently going through,” UNIFIL’s Head of Mission and Force Commander, Major General Aroldo Lázaro, told the assembled crowd. “I would like to underline the importance of this exhibition as a forum for cultural exchange between the Lebanese society and the international community, which helps us understand that our differences only contribute to a unique and wonderful global society.”
Vendor Ghada El Khoury, of the Sole Association/Strength of United Ladies, said her group of women vendors have taken part in training courses that UNIFIL has organized to help them market their products. She said they sell their products to UN peacekeepers on a weekly basis.
“Today we bought all kinds of souvenirs related to Lebanon,” she said. “We also brought for the exhibition some paintings that we did in black and white portraying the UNIFIL soldiers, in appreciation of their noble mission and sacrifices here in Lebanon.”
Civilian peacekeeper Moussa Barakat, a Civil Affairs Officer, bought a number of products at the exhibition.
“We are trying to support the cooperatives,” he explained. “Most of them are women working to support their families financially.”
Around thirty local cooperatives and associations, mostly owned by women, exhibited their wares from different parts of south Lebanon.
“This exhibition is very important because it helps us to promote our products, said Fatima Kassir of the Al Kassir Association for Food Processing. “It is also a chance to meet UNIFIL staff members (military and civilians) and the Lebanese staff members included. They get our contact numbers, to visit us later on and buy our products.”
The exhibition was meant to help local entrepreneurs to showcase their products and build relationships with each other, as well as introduce Lebanese culture to UNIFIL peacekeepers. It is part of efforts to strengthen relations between UNIFIL and local communities.