The Lebanese Organization of Studies and Training (LOST) held a conference entitled, “Engaging Women in Politics”, in the presence of the Minister of State for Administrative Development Affairs, Dr. Inaya Ezzedine, Ambassador of Sweden in Lebanon, Mr. Peter Semneby, UN Special Coordinator, Mr. Philippe Lazzarini, Governor of Baalbeck-Hermel, Mr. Bachir Khodr, founder of LOST, Dr. Ramy Lakkis, among other social figures. This conference was supported by the GIZ program, “Strengthening Women in Decision-making in the Middle East (LEAD)”, commissioned by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.
“Participation is a fundamental principle in achieving, activating, and sustaining development, because development views people as actors in the process of change, and effectiveness means participation that enables people to influence decisions affecting their lives”, stated Dr. Ramy Lakkis. Furthermore, Dr. Lakkis explained that the participation of women enhances the formation of an effective civil society, a middle society between the state and the market, participation that contributes to improving the level of services, promoting a culture of civil peace, reducing corruption, and promoting a culture of transparency and accountability. Dr. Lakkis called for “forming a social unit that supports and develops the participation of women in public work, the participation of women in all municipal and local committees, and changing the stereotype of the concept of participation”, while also stressing that the participation of women will not be achieved without social reform, and the concept of authority should be changed to serve people, not people in the service of the leader of the authorities.
Moreover, Mr. Bachir Khodr mentioned, “of the 600 municipal council members in Baalbeck-Hermel, there are only 17 women in municipal councils”. The governor further explained that “the quota of women is an injustice to women’s rights, but in light of the reality that we live in, it may be necessary to understand that women are partners and should be present in the political and parliamentary life, as well as public life”.
Additionally, Mr. Peter Semneby emphasized that “the participation of women in politics and in all other sectors is important in the process of democracy, economic growth, and social development”. He shared some experiences of the political system in Sweden, where the government is equally divided between men and women. Mr. Semneby explained that the electoral systems in Lebanon and Sweden are different; however, the involvement of women in politics in Lebanon is important for the benefit of the entire Lebanese society.
“In the Middle East and North Africa, the representation of women is 16%, while in Lebanon, it is only 3%”, Mr. Philippe Lazzarini explained. Mr. Lazzarini added, “the quota is not an end in itself; it is a temporary means of joining other countries. If we want to invest in stability and secure a better future for Lebanon, it is very important to invest in the participation of women in public life and political life”.
Furthermore, Dr. Inaya Ezzedine shared her opinion, stating, “on the subject of women, we start from the constitution and from Article VII, which affirms that all Lebanese enjoy equal civil and political rights, and abide by public duties without any difference between them”. Dr. Ezzedine further explained that there is a large absence at the level of women reaching positions of decision. “It is recognized that the first step necessary to address this reality is the adoption of the principle of quota in any electoral law as an interim measure and a transitional stage”. This also needs to be accompanied by measures that “leave positive effects on the situation of women in different locations, especially poor, vulnerable, marginalized, agricultural, and working women, who are made vulnerable by low social conditions to exploitation at more than one level”. Dr. Ezzedine stressed that the demand to approve the quota, a right and a duty, is supposed to be accompanied by a process to reform and awareness to enhance the image of women.