Nadia Badrane, Director of Lebanon’s Nursing and Community Development Association
By Asmaa Chaidi,October 10, 2020
NOTHING PREDESTINED NADIA BADRAN TO BECOME A REFERENCE IN THE DEFENSE OF THE RIGHTS OF HIV- POSITIVE PEOPLE IN THE LAND OF THE CEDAR AND BEYOND, EXCEPT HER UNFAILING ALTRUISM AND HER FAITH IN A BETTER LEBANON, IN A MORE SERENE REGION.
With a soft tone and humming accent, the Executive Director of the SIDC (Nursing and Community Development) Association answers our questions with the precision and application of a first in class. The elegance of her words almost contrasts with their substance. Vulnerable populations because they are outlaws, teenagers who are not free from the dictates of a reality that clashes with the clichés of the Internet, religious leaders who oppose the integration of sex education programs in schools… this is all the complexity of a multi-faith Arab country that the expert in social work and socio-educational counseling has been facing for 25 years.
A passion named « social work »
After graduating from high school, Nadia joined the University of Beirut to become a dentist. She heard about the opening of a new branch. « Social Assistance », this name tilts her passion for volunteering and she decides to apply for it. Only 15 candidates are selected and she is one of them. If the first two years proved to be difficult, particularly because of the civil war that was raging at the time, the young girl majored in the 3rd year and the 4th year confirmed her choice by making herself first in her class once again.
« I had already invested the field as a volunteer. I had to work a lot on myself because I was bullied by my shyness. It was the beginning of the 90s and people diagnosed with AIDS were already at the end of theirlives. Treatments were not advanced enough. I was barely twenty years old when I had to talk about sexuality, even though I myself had never received sexual education. I had to talk to wives who felt « betrayed » by their husbands, to men who were at least twice my age as intimate subjects, to teenagers about how best to protect themselves…you had to find the art and the way… »
she recalls nostalgically. By joining the Non-Governmental Organization she has been leading since 2019, she is dedicated to outreach work with vulnerable populations. From mapping to awareness raising and screening campaigns, Nadia does not skimp on any facet of the fight.
» when I went into the field, I was careful not to wear a religious symbol. Maybe that’s what made it easier for me to « interfere » in the homes, » says the all-terrain activist, amused.
On the lookout for new approches
Eager to learn, the young woman multiplies trainings in the four corners of the globe, explores methods that have succeeded elsewhere and returns each time to Lebanon to adapt them to the local culture. Nadia Badran can boast of having organized the first Focus Group of people living with HIV in Lebanon.
« I remember that the first poster that was raised to talk about AIDS was the three monkeys: the one who refuses to see, the one who refuses to hear and the third one who refuses to talk. Today, we go out in the street with T-shirts stamped « I am HIV positive ». It shows how much mentalities have changed in 25 years, » she concedes.
It has been a quarter of a century since Nadia Badran has been training and giving trainings for sex workers, drug users, the LGBT community, people living with HIV. She has set up programs offering various preventive and therapeutic services both within SIDC and other Lebanese associations. Since the end of the 1990s, Nadia Badran has been working for the revision of action policies in favor of the respect and integration of vulnerable populations in the professional environment and in their access to health care. Surrounded by lawyers and trade unionists, this humanist fighter of injustice has made the right to dignity the alpha and omega of her pleas. She has raised religious leaders against stigmatization through her media campaign « Enta Shou Nater » (What are you waiting for?), provided socio-educational counseling in more than 40 episodes of a program broadcast on a regional television channel, and developed more than 50 training manuals for health workers, associations, civil servants, young people, trainers … throughout the MENA region and beyond.
25 years of activism to change mentalities
In 2012, she is leading a Knowledge Hub around risk reduction. A colorful program targeting 12 countries that the Middle East North Africa Harm Reduction Association (MENAHRA) has initiated.
« Subsidized by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, this project has been beneficial for all associations working in this field in Lebanon and in the MENA region« , says the doctoral student in social work under the theme of « Ethics ».
A subject inspired by the woman in her, she likes to specify, one more string to be added to the loaded bow of the refined Phoenician woman who never falters in the face education is about to be addressed in school textbooks under the heading of « Reproductive Health », Nadia prefers to see the half full glass.
« The Global Fund has been in Lebanon for only two years. I hope that it will help ensure that associations never lack the means to at least provide quality services because, if advocacy may seem secondary for some, services will alwaysremain an absolute necessity, » she concludes,