In cooperation with Beirut Arab University and the National Commission for Women, and in collaboration with the British Council and the National Committee for the Follow-up on Women's Issues, the Maharat Foundation organized a panel discussion on "Activating the Role of Women in Political Participation" among students and decision-makers within the framework of the EU-funded project DAWRAK . The panel was attended by the President of the National Commission for Lebanese Women Ms. Claudine Aoun Roukoz and MPs Majid Edi Abi El-Lamaa and Elias Hanaksh, as well as the candidate for the parliamentary elections Laury Haytian.
Students and participants discussed issues related to activating women's political participation, such as approving quotas in the election law, the role of political parties in supporting women in political participation, and the strategy of the National Commission for Women to activate women's political participation.
The students raised a number of questions and made several recommendations to the participants in order to enhance the participation of the young in the discussion of public issues and the development of public policies related to the political role of women and to support communication between them and officials and decision-makers.
The event started with BAU President Professor Amr Galal El-Adawi and Head of the Media Department Dr. Gamal Mujahed welcoming the participants and stressing that BAU supports enhancing the role of women at all levels not only in the political realm.
President of the National Commission for Lebanese Women Ms. Claudine Aoun Roukoz noted that the percentage of female candidates increased in the recent elections, but this was not reflected in the presence of women in the Lebanese Parliament, pointing out that women do not vote for female candidates but for a list that is compatible with their political stance.
She also maintained that the National Commission has called for a transitional quota to activate the participation of women in political life, considering that waiting for real equality only is useless at the moment. She added, "Laws reveal a significant prejudice against women. We as a national entity for women's affairs have many law suggestions which we will submit soon. Though women’s participation in the government is represented by 4 ministers out of 30, this is considered an achievement and a great progress at the level of female presence in the government.”
Continuing her speech, she said that the political presence of women needs a law and she encouraged the initiative of Prime Minister Saad Hariri to nominate women for the parliament and the government, adding that Hariri kept his word concerning women's presence in political life.
Within the context of the participation of women in the political parties, she stressed that females must get out of the shadows and impose themselves without allowing males to take the lead, adding "we are witnessing progress at all levels and the upcoming parliamentary elections will reflect this. Stereotypes change with the new generation."
MP Majid Edi Abi Al Lamaa, pointed out that there are many women in our patriarchal society who do not believe in the role of women in political life. "Here lies the danger. We must exert a great effort at the level of education at schools and universities to raise awareness about this subject,” he said.
Abi Lamaa assured that there are many discussions about the quota within the parties, considering that it is a kind of discrimination and imposing it is useless. He added, "Basically, it is linked to raising the young’s awareness through education in order to create a public opinion that is supportive of women's political participation, especially as there are many citizens who are against the quota, which is still considered a controversial issue."
As for the role of parties in supporting women's political participation, Abi -Lamaa expressed his hope for the new generation to change the current situation in the parties.
MP Elias Hanaksh, said that the current parliament members represent not only males but all citizens as well, especially as the problems in Lebanon are shared by men and women.
He pointed out that there is an improvement in the political participation of women through a set of indicators, for there are now six female parliament members and 4 ministers, as well as the post of Minister of Interior in the Middle East for the first time.
He also expressed his support for the approval of the quota, especially as all countries that have shown progress in the field of raising the political representation of women had approved the quota.
Laury Haytian, the candidate for the parliamentary elections, said that most of the female candidates who took part in the elections don’t belong to any party. They accepted the challenge to encourage the new generation to join the political domain. "There is a stereotype concept that women don’t understand politics which we tried to change in the previous elections," she continued.
Concerning the role of parties in supporting women's political participation, Haytian said that parties were not supportive as females candidates were absent from the election lists. The parties do not want the quota in order to maintain their posts and their gains. "We are witnessing a non-traditional situation in the political life; it is a transitional phase and civil society has played its political role, but the best way for women to achieve political presence is through the party, so the battle must take place within the parties for the women's involvement in the political life."
It is worth mentioning that DAWRAK project aims at enhancing women's participation in public affairs. In this context, the project resulted in a set of basic priorities for activating the role of women, including the promotion of women's political participation and civil status law. Therefore, DAWRAK launched two advocacy campaigns around these two priorities.