What helped shape the woman you are today?
I can honestly say that what shaped the character of the woman I am today are all the experiences I have been through. What also helped is my sense of independence which helped me take risks and grow on every level.
What’s the best piece of advice you’d been given?
One of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given is to work in silence, in the sense that actions and successes speak louder than words. I also learned not to react or reply while being angry.
What piece of advice would you give to any startup woman out there?
It’s always hard to start up a business. I would tell them to persevere and never give up. Hard work is bound to pay off!
If you could introduce only one piece of legislation to further gender balance, what would it be?
There is clearly a lot that can be done to further empower women globally in general and in Lebanon in particular at the level of legislation. I would endorse any law that would ensure true equality!
How would you describe Abir before working alongside Lawyer Nouhad Nawfal and Abir now?
I have long had the same character and spirit as I had always shown a great sense of responsibility and sought to build my character. But I can certainly say that I have learned a great deal from a man such as Lawyer Nouhad Nawfal.
Now and after years of working, I have become my own boss, a decision maker as I work for my future. When working for an institution, your limits are those of the institution, but when you are self-employed, the sky becomes your limit!
In a recent statement by Lawyer Nouhad Nawfal, you’ve been addressed as a “reference for municipal relations”. What was his role in shaping up your professional identity, and in boosting your engagement and dedication to the municipal field?
Mr. Nawfal was well-known on the level of our country as an expert in the field of municipal work. Working with him for 11 years has certainly taught me a lot and helped me build my professional character. He judged me capable of working hard and being trustworthy. He always recognized the sense of responsibility in me and trusted me with complicated tasks, knowing beforehand that I would deliver excellent results.
What’s your view on women in leadership and in shaping societies?
Women have been true partners in our society capable of affecting real change and bringing about marvelous results. They are active leaders and change makers!
Do you believe women are and should be more engaged in the municipal field, now more than ever? How do you see the progress of their inclusion throughout the years of your expertise?
Surely, yes! The past decade has witnessed unprecedented change in the role women play on the level of municipal work. Today, we see women rising up to challenges unlike any time before, leading municipal councils, acting as proactive members and thinkers in municipalities all over Lebanon. This gives great hope for the future.
You’ve organized a number of social, cultural, educational, and touristic events such as the Lebanese Wine Festival, Layali el Souk El Atik…What is the common factor that kept inspiring you throughout the launching of each and every one of them?
Truth be told, working on such events can be challenging; however, my main source of motivation was the potential these events can have for the local communities, villages, artisans, and the region in general.
These events constituted a great opportunity for artisans to show their trade and creations, to market local products such as wines, to attract people’s attention towards a certain region that might have been known and empower tourism… Knowing that well-organized events such as the mentioned ones will offer immense opportunities for exposure and public relations to all the participants are the main driver that kept me going.
As a municipal icon yourself, what was your role in strengthening the international relations of Lebanon in general and of Lebanese municipalities in particular?
My work in the field of international relations whether on the level of Lebanon or the municipalities can be split into several fronts.
I enjoy a lot of connections which helped me build bridges and relationships easily between various parties. Relationships can be easily built, however, preserving good relationships is hard. To succeed in this, one needs to anticipate, analyze, strategize, have vision, and – most importantly – have a sense of humanity. You need to think globally, act effectively, build gradually, create opportunities… It all lies in ensuring the institution’s achievements are recognized, not your own.
How would you describe the importance of municipalities – globally – in attracting foreigners and boosting the tourism in Lebanon?
Municipalities play the most prominent role in terms of encouraging tourism and attracting tourists. They know the exact needs of their community and touristic attractions and are capable of providing what is needed to ensure a top notch touristic experience. A municipality can ensure roads are decent and clean, parking spots are available, the entry and exit of touristic places are organized, and much more.
You recently launched the “Agenda Municipal Libanais”, which is an innovative website aiming to connect people with the respective municipalities, and to create a bridge for municipalities to communicate locally and internationally. What experience do you guarantee to users through this portal, and how do you plan to strengthen this connection as you move forward with it?
The “Agenda Municipal Libanais” which I consider to be the fruit of my years of work, is an online forum where everyone has access to a single platform that encompasses a variety of information pertaining to municipalities in a clear, thorough and easy to use manner.
I established this forum to promote inter-municipal communication and facilitate access to municipal information, sharing of events, etc. A politics-free medium, it highlights municipal affairs and news, steering clear of all politically related occasions and/or activities.
The Lebanese Municipal Agenda also provides a variety of services to Lebanese municipalities: speech-writing, correspondences, translations from and into three languages, project management, implementation of twinning agreements, conceptualization of brochures, books, fliers, videos, advertisements, etc.
How do you believe collaborations between local and foreign municipalities can economically and educationally impact any nation?
Any type of collaboration usually brings about positive results to both parties. Municipal collaborations and partnerships – in my experience – usually result in sharing experiences, information, knowledge, and more. All engaged parties learn to open up to the other’s culture, helping in development and growth!
“Pont de Culture”, a cultural event is taking place this March 6 & 7 as a literary and artistic exchange between the cities of Aix-en-Provence (France) and Baalbek (Lebanon), and you are among the main presenters/speakers. What milestone do you think this event would reach through its achievements for both Lebanon & France alike?
This event per se celebrates the long-standing relationship between Baalbek and Aix en Provence and highlights the most important aspects of this partnership. The most prominent achievements of the latter is putting in place a sports policy for Baalbek, aiming to promote sports among the youth. We are also planning to start the work on a touristic policy that takes Baalbek to whole new level!
What’s next for Abir El Khoury Jbeily?
At this point, and aside from my municipal work, I want to ensure “L’Agenda Municipal Libanais” is a success and gains fame throughout Lebanon and other countries. I also want to work more on my connections locally, regionally, and internationally!
To know more about Abir, visit this link.