Marketlinks Event

Inclusion in Economic Empowerment and Livelihoods Programming: Lessons from Lebanon and Around the World

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woman making bread
Photo by Joao Souza/Corus International

Sustainable market systems development is rooted in its ability to achieve broad-based, inclusive economic growth. However, many markets are deeply inequitable and exclude women, older people, youth, persons with disabilities, and other marginalized groups. Humanitarian and development practitioners can help fulfill the promise that markets hold for improving livelihoods by supporting disenfranchised groups’ access to markets as a key pathway for economic empowerment.

On Thursday, February 23, 2023, at 9:00 a.m. ET Marketlinks held a webinar featuring speakers from USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance and Lutheran World Relief (LWR) of Corus International. The panelists discussed challenges, opportunities, and good practices for centering social inclusion in livelihoods programming, including lessons from Corus LWR’s work with economically empowering women and female refugees in the Lebanon context.



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Laura Meissner, Senior Economic Recovery and Markets Advisor, USAID's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance

Laura Meissner is a Senior Economic Recovery and Market Systems Advisor with USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance through an agreement with the University of Arizona. She has supported emergency response and recovery across a wide variety of contexts, including the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, the Venezuela regional response, Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine. Prior to joining UA and USAID in 2010, Laura managed the Minimum Economic Recovery Standards initiative and led practitioner learning initiatives for microenterprise development and financial services at the SEEP Network. She holds a B.S. in foreign service and an M.A. in international development.



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Keren Yohannes, Gender, Age, and Social Inclusion Advisor, USAID's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance

Keren Yohannes is a Gender, Age, and Social Inclusion Advisor working with the U.S. Agency for International Development's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) through a Global Health, Training, Advisory, and Support Contract. Keren provides technical guidance to BHA on programmatic and policy approaches to ensure the inclusion of marginalized groups in U.S. international disaster assistance. Prior to joining USAID in 2022, Keren held direct service delivery, program management, and technical advisory roles in Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. She has worked for UNHCR, the U.S. Department of State, and several international NGOs, including Humanity and Inclusion. Her areas of specialization are humanitarian protection and disability inclusive humanitarian action. Keren holds a master of social work and a master of law and diplomacy. 


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Eva Christensen, Sr. Technical Advisor - Resilience, Corus International

Eva Christensen works with Corus International as Sr. Technical Advisor for Resilience.  She brings over 23 years of experience in sustainability, small-scale agriculture, food security, and entrepreneurship. Most recently Eva served as Sr. Agriculture and Food Security Advisor at USAID/BHA, and previously served as Activity Manager for multiple Feed the Future projects in Haiti. To date, she has completed nine USAID Farmer-to-Farmer assignments in sub-Saharan Africa, worked as the Agriculture and Biodiversity Advisor for Peace Corps Response in Senegal, and worked as Technical Specialist for hundreds of USDA small farming clients across the U.S. 
Besides her technical credentials, Eva also created and operated two successful, sustainability-focused small businesses and later worked as Executive Director for Water Stewardship, Inc. She holds a BSFS in Economics of Development from Georgetown University, and MS in Agroecology from University of Florida.


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Caroline Batarekh, Acting Programs Director, Lutheran World Relief/Corus International Lebanon

Caroline Batarekh is currently leading the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative for Expanding Women’s Labor Force in Lebanon, a program funded by USAID. Her focus is on women’s economic empowerment and growth in challenging environments. Caroline Batarekh helped refugees and the Lebanese host community in making significant and positive contributions towards a better tomorrow. She also supports IT and entrepreneurship education while helping them access finance in Lebanon through loans and grants. 

She worked on a BHA-funded project in response to the Beirut Blast, helping the renovation and reconstruction of damaged households along with supporting MSME’s affected by the Beirut Blast in their rehabilitation. Caroline was also leading “Agriculture for Peace in Lebanon,” “Conflict Management and Community Livelihoods Development for both the Syrian refugees and the Lebanese host communities,” as well as “Emergency Food Assistance in Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic.”

She holds a B.Sc. in Psychology and Human Resources Management from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and she previously worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Syria on the Iraqi refugee’s portfolio.