VINTAGE LEBANESE ACTIVISTS
Mounira Solh (19 September 1911 – 27 November 2010) was a pioneer advocate for the rights of women and people with disabilities in Lebanon.
One of the earliest women to attend university in Lebanon and the Arab world, Mounira Solh graduated in 1933 from the American Junior College for Women (the Lebanese American University today). Soon after, she travelled to Baghdad, Iraq, where she worked as a teacher for two years, contributing to the national school curriculum revamp. On her return to Lebanon in 1935, she married her first cousin, Wahid Solh despite her father’s disapproval. She eloped with her new husband to Palestine for a few months before returning home after receiving word that her father had accepted her marriage.
Along with other pioneering women, Mounira Solh worked relentlessly for the advancement of laws pertaining to women and people with disabilities. In 1951, she became a member of the Lebanese Council of Women. She was also active in humanitarian and charity work, and led the national team of relief volunteers to help victims of the Beirut Great Fire in 1956.
A year after her husband’s assassination during the 1958 civil war, Mounira Solh established the Al Amal Institute for the Disabled. She was inspired by her desire to help her son Salim and other children with disability.
It was the first center of its kind in Lebanon and the Arab world. She also founded in 1984 the Association of the Parents of Mentally Disabled Children in Lebanon, the first of its kind in Lebanon.
She was one of the most prominent female leaders of the demonstrations that led to Lebanon’s independence in 1943. An advocate of women’s rights, she was the first Muslim woman to run for parliamentary elections in Lebanon and probably the Arab world when she ran for a Beirut seat in 1960. She was a candidate to the legislative elections in Lebanon twice after that, in 1964 and 1968 – but was never elected.
She was also a humanitarian with decades of volunteer and charity work.
In 1968, she became a member of Rehabilitation International, the world’s leading organization for disability rights. That same year, she was elected vice-president of the Lebanese Council of Women and in 1970 she became a life member of the International Council of Women. She earned a special distinction from U.S. President Richard Nixon after attending three annual conferences between 1970 and 1972 of the U.S. President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, Washington D.C.
In her struggle to advance the rights of women and people with disability, Mounira Solh has officially represented Lebanon at various international conferences around the world including in Lisbon, Tokyo, Sydney and Mexico.
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