Date: Feb 8, 2019
Source: The Daily Star
Data sheds light on perceptions of women in Lebanese politics
Jacob Boswall| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: More than 80 percent of the 847 respondents to a recent survey agree that women are underrepresented in Lebanese politics, but only 65 percent believe that women should have any seats allocated to them in Cabinet. This finding appears to be part of a trend in a national survey, launched Thursday at Antwork in Beirut’s Hamra that maps perceptions of Lebanese women in politics.

Written by Netherlands-based development aid organization Hivos International and regional consulting firm Beyond Reform, “Lebanese Women in Leadership Positions: A Survey on National Perceptions” appears to reflect a belief that women merit greater representation in government, but that any such increase shouldn’t be forced.

For example, only 22.3 percent of respondents specified the need for women to have 64 reserved seats - or 50 percent of parliamentary posts - allocated to them.

The findings come as Beirut this week played host to FemParl, a first-of-its-kind conference devoted to discussing the challenges to, and opportunities for, greater female political representation in the Middle East and North Africa. Future Movement MP Dima Jamali told The Daily Star at the event that her party was considering introducing legislation to impose a gender-based parliamentary quota system.

Regardless of whether Lebanese voters would welcome such a move to boost female political representation, Mira Bouchmouny, a project officer at Hivos, is confident that the data presented in the survey results can help effect change and redress gender imbalance in politics.

“It puts the focus back on what the perceptions [of women in leadership positions] are across the entire country,” she said.

“Now if we are going to put funding in a particular area, we have baseline data. It changes the discourse from ‘what capacities are women lacking?’ to ‘what are the perceptions and how can we challenge these perceptions?’” she said.

She added that the global donor community is not the only group likely to benefit from the new data.

“It’s also really good for the female politicians within political parties to be able to use this.”

“It is qualitative and quantitative data which we can use to say, ‘Hold on, these are the perceptions of the Lebanese population. There’s no more hearsay. This is the actual data; we need to stick to this.’”

Bouchmouny that the document, which will soon be made publically available, will also have an impact on civil society groups and activists. “As you can see from turnout we are not just from the NGO sector. There are many with activist and political party backgrounds,” she said.

Though she has reservations about the ability of the newly formed government to tackle gender-related issues, she said she is pleased with the name change of the new ministry from the Ministry of State for Social and Economic Rehabilitation for Youth and Women to the Ministry of State for the Economic Empowerment of Women and Youth.

“What is women’s rehabilitation? If it means rehabilitation of the structural system, then I can understand. Also combining women and youth is very patronizing. It suggests they are in need of handouts and assistance, which is not the case,” she said.