The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


DPU alumni-founded charity CatalyticAction completes project empowering adolescent girls in Lebanon

18 June 2024

CatalyticAction, founded by alumni from the Development Planning Unit (DPU), has concluded its pilot project in Beirut, Lebanon empowering adolescent girls by involving them in the co-design and construction of public spaces.


This initiative addresses the issue of diminishing freedoms for girls in public areas as they grow up. The project was piloted in the neighbourhood of Karantina, which exhibits significant gender inequalities in its public spaces. CatalyticAction prioritised this area to build on their previous successful community engagement activities. 

CatalyticAction engaged 40 adolescent girls, aged 10 to 24, from both Lebanese and Syrian backgrounds, in a series of participatory activities. The tailored co-design programme aimed to raise awareness on gender equality, promote girls’ rights to safety in public spaces, understand how girls experience these spaces, and co-create design ideas for safer and more inclusive public areas.  

The girls co-designed three built interventions in their neighbourhood: a mural and two street interventions named ‘The Outdoor Living Room’ and ‘The LOVE Wall.’ 

After completing the spatial interventions, the girls actively took on the role of activating the public spaces. They held a neighbourhood tour to present their project to the neighbourhood and key stakeholders. They organised picnics, photoshoots, dance sessions and meet ups in the spaces they co-created. 

Joana Dabaj, Co-founder and Director of Programmes at CatalyticAction said: “Adolescent girls are now seen more often in their neighbourhood’s public spaces, especially the ones they co-created. They are more confident in spending time as opposed to before the project. The girls are now empowered to stand their ground and claim spaces that they enjoy. A city that is safe for girls is safer for the whole community.” 

Read more about this project in The Bartlett Review. 

Download CatalyticAction’s 2023 Impact Report and visit their website to learn more about their impactful work. 

The Built Interventions

The Mural

Outdoor living
The Outdoor Living Room

love wall
The LOVE Wall

Joana Dabaj is a visiting lecturer for the Social Development Practice, and Building and Urban Design in Development MSc programmes.