Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Strengthening the Role of Women in the Public Sphere

Moderating Extremism: Lebanese Leaders’ Perspectives

The Institute for Inclusive Security hosted a delegation of women from Lebanon in Washington, DC as part of their 2010 Colloquium. The women represent a cross-section of Lebanese society (see below for a list of the women).

The delegation met with a variety of think tanks and US policy makers, including Safadi Foundation USA. The delegation emphasized the need to increase female participation in the public sphere. While Lebanon appears to be a very free society on a superficial level, there are many barriers women must work through to obtain equality with their male counterparts. These barriers include patriarchy, confessionalism and cultural limitations imposed by religious clerics. In fact, Lebanon has one of the lowest percentages of women in policy or decision-level making positions. Currently, there are four women out of 128 parliamentarians and 2 female Cabinet-level Ministers out of a total of 30. The women that are present in public life in Lebanon have strong familial ties to male sectarian leaders with strong financial backing. What this shows is that women with strong financial resources and elite family connections are successful in making it to public office. However, there are many other women who are not able to share the same success based on merit alone due to institutional discrimination.

What these women are fighting for is to ensure that women’s rights are being accorded to them based on their national citizenship and not their sect and/or family status. With the assistance of Hunt Alternatives Fund, these women are working to strengthen their advocacy skills through coalition building, training and exchange programs, and technical advice. The delegation announced a set of recommendations specific to advancing the role of women in democracy and peacebuilding in Lebanese society. The recommendations can be viewed in their entirety at: http://www.huntalternatives.org/download/1918_new_solutions_for_moderating_extremism_lebanon.pdf

Safadi Foundation USA commends these women and will continue to seek ways to mobilize support for strengthening Lebanese civil society.


Wafa Abed, President, Institute of Progressive Women Union;
May Akl, Foreign Press Secretary for MP Michel Aoun;
Dima Dabbous-Sensenig, Director, Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World, Lebanese American University;
Elissar Douaihy, Training and Mobilization Coordinator, Women Empowerment: Peaceful Action for Security and Stability (WEPASS);
Claudia Abi Nader, Professor, Military Academy; and
Lamia Osseiran, Vice president, Lebanese Council of Women.

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