SUN 20 - 1 - 2019
Jun 8, 2018
The Daily Star
Hopes high for more women in next Lebanon Cabinet
Sabine Darrous| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: While consultations and negotiations to form a new government are underway, there are hopes the upcoming Cabinet will witness a boost in the number of women appointed to ministerial positions. Despite continued promises from various political parties to expand the participation of women, so far there has been no significant implementation of these pledges in the political arena.
The current 30-member caretaker government includes only one woman – Minister of State for Administrative Development Inaya Ezzeddine. She will most likely retain her position as minister in the new government as part of the Amal Movement’s share of seats, according to sources close to the party.
Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has repeatedly expressed his wish to expand the participation of women in the upcoming Cabinet, and has brought up the matter with members of parliamentary blocs with whom he met during last month’s consultations on forming a new government.
MP Paula Yacoubian, an advocate for women’s rights and the sole civil society candidate to gain a seat in Parliament, said during consultations that Hariri expressed a desire for a government with 25 percent female representation.
Yacoubian said the premier told her that he raised the issue with all blocs he met, and that the Future Movement would be the first to adopt this.
Future MP Rola Tabsh Jaroudi confirmed her party would nominate one or more women to the new Cabinet but declined to mention names or portfolios, saying the process was still in its early stages.
“We can promise there will be female ministers [from the Future Movement] in the new government,” she told The Daily Star, adding that Hariri has always called for strengthening the role of women in politics.
“The prime minister has great confidence in women and their capabilities in public work,” she said.
Women’s presence in Parliament did not see much of an increase in the recent general elections – only six female candidates gained seats out of the 86 who ran.
While most parties have expressed their support for seeing a greater share of women in the new government, there have been no serious moves to implement a quota for female members of Parliament or of the Cabinet.
The Lebanese Forces, despite citing its support for the representation of women in the government, opposes the implementation of a gender quota, according to the LF’s head of media and communications Charles Jabbour.
“The presence of a quota will limit women to a specific number or rate. We believe there is no difference between women and men,” he said, adding the LF would most likely nominate one or two female ministers in the new government.
“We have a large number of competent women who are members in the [LF] party and we will not hesitate to appoint some on the basis of the right person for the right position,” Jabbour said.
Similarly, the Free Patriotic Movement voiced its support for women’s participation and confirmed the party would most likely nominate female members to the new Cabinet.
An FPM source said the head of the party’s Strong Lebanon parliamentary bloc Gebran Bassil has not yet discussed or revealed names of women who will be nominated by the party for ministerial seats, as the matter depends on the portfolios that will be granted to the party.
However, the source said it was “very likely” the party would nominate female members for the government this time.
Recently, media reports have been circulating that among the women to be appointed to the new Cabinet as part of the Free Patriotic Movement or President Michel Aoun’s share is Mireille Aoun-Hashem, the president’s daughter and political consultant.
However, the FPM source refused to confirm or deny these reports, saying neither the FPM nor the president had come out with a final decision regarding names.
For Yacoubian, the scant number of women in political positions is “a shame for Lebanon.”
Yacoubian criticized how the majority of leaders keep promising to work on strengthening the role of women and boosting their presence without putting words into action.
Yacoubian expressed her strong support for a gender quota, which she said she believed was the only way to strengthen and boost the representation of women in government decision-making positions.
“The quota is humiliating?” the MP asked sarcastically, in reference to some parties like the LF that believe a quota would impose limits on women.
“What is humiliating is our present status and the fact that women can only reach [Cabinet or Parliament] based on the mood of leaders and their desires to appoint women or not,” she said.
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