ACGEN: Active Citizenship and Gendered Social Entitlements

Key words

Active citizenship… social entitlements… patriarchy… social rights…


Citizenship is not an end in itself.  Rather, it is a means to social, political and economic participation in society and implies a reciprocal relationship between citizens, both women and men, and state.  It is as active citizens that individual women and men are empowered to claim their basic rights and entitlements:  not only the right to vote or engage in political decision making, but the right to work and to earn a decent livelihood, the right to affordable healthcare and education for themselves and their families, the right to social welfare benefits, the rights to agency and self dignity, and, most importantly, the right to have rights.  Active citizenship is a means to expanding human opportunity and achieving social justice and gender equality; it denotes equality between citizens, and promotes collective action as a means of securing that equality. 
In the context of the social relations of gender, active citizenship and are particularly meaningful.  The exercise of rights and access to social entitlements are highly gendered and often hampered by social practices, traditions, dominant cultures, and institutionalized discrimination against women. 
What roles should be played by the government, NGOs and CSOs in realizing equal access to social entitlements is the subject of avid debate analysis by the ACGEN project which considers states, civil society and faith based organisations as key, yet highly patriarchal, institutions which by and large determine who has rights to what, often at the detriment of women.


Active Citizenship and Gendered Social Entitlements seeks to:

  • Develop and disseminate a body of knowledge about the role and contribution NGOs and CSOs in negotiating gendered social entitlements and their relationship to the state and the communities they serve
  • Contribute to building the capacity of citizen groups to promote the concept and practice of women’s active citizenship
  • Push the boundaries of the debate and public mobilization around the issue of confessionalism and its position within the Lebanese constitution

Strategies and activities
ACGEN uses three inter-related and mutually reinforcing strategies, namely:

  • Research and knowledge generation and dissemination
  • Alliance and capacity building
  • Advocacy and campaigning

Research and knowledge generation and dissemination was the initial strategy adopted by the ACGEN project upon its inception in 2004.  Several studies were done in Lebanon, Egypt and Palestine and which included mapping papers of health services, educational systems and social safety nets in addition to community researches and analysis of the roles of state and civil society organizations in determining and engendering rights and social entitlements.  Research work was pursued in Lebanon with a multi-year qualitative study of Faith Based organizations and their role and impact in the fields of health and education.  The results of this study inspired a second level of research looking into public and civic actions challenging confessionalism in Lebanon in addition of a legal analysis of the position of confessionalism in the Lebanese constitutions.  ACGEN also compiles, produces and disseminates the Social Rights Watch newsletter which includes analysis, coverage and information on policies, issues and events related to active citizenship, gender and social entitlements in Lebanon.
Allianceand capacity building is about engaging with sister organizations in dialogue on the concept and practice of active citizenship, leadership and the role of state and NGOs.  These events are precursors to mobilization and engagement in the subsequent campaigns to be launched or supported by the project.
Advocacy and campaigning is a nascent initiative of the ACGEN project as the team prepares to launch a national campaign on the issue of public civil rights and the constitution.  Watch this space for more…

How can you help?

You can help by subscribing to the ACGEN newsletters and disseminating them to your friends and colleagues.

  • Take part in our public seminars and training events.
  • When exercising your rights as citizen and when you vote, challenge politicians and decision makers to be accountable for securing the rights of citizens and for managing public goods and resources.
  • Download and read the project resources and research reports.  If you are a student, choose to work on papers and thesis dealing with the subject of active citizenship.
  • Follow us on Twitter and like our FaceBook page.
  • Visit our library!
  • Contact our team and join in our activity


Donors and supporters

The ACGEN programme was initiated with a research grant from IDRC. Previous donors include the British Embassy in Beirut. Current donors include the Heinrich Boell Foundation and Kvinna till Kvinna.

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