BEIRUT: Journalist May Chidiac Monday lauded the role played by women in the regional uprisings of recent years, but said much needed to be done to elevate their social status.
In her opening speech at a conference launched to honor women, Chidiac saluted those who played a role in the so-called Arab Spring. But she lamented the fact that three of the countries that had experienced dramatic political changes – Syria, Yemen and Egypt – were ranked low in terms of protecting women’s rights and elevating their social status.
“In Lebanon, the situation is no better. Women are captives of the sectarian system. The draft law on domestic violence is still sitting in the drawers of Parliament awaiting the blessing of 18 sects and the adoption by a majority of 128 MPs,” Chidiac said at the event organized by the May Chidiac Foundation, which was held under the patronage of first lady Wafa Sleiman.
“At this conference, we aim at shedding light on the unique experiences of women who were pioneers, strugglers, intellectuals, leaders, ministers and media figures – women who were capable of changing the status quo and toppling longtime standards,” Chidiac added.
“We want more female ministers, and we want to consider women for ministerial portfolios in the early stages of Cabinets’ formation, [rather than] when their conscience is suddenly awakened at the last minute to appoint a single women as minister in a Cabinet of 24, which is what happened this time,” she said.
“We welcome you Minister [of the Displaced] Alice Shabtini, but we don’t envy you because we are sure you will find yourself in the Lebanese wonderland soon,” Chidiac said, warning this Cabinet’s sole female minister that surprises and challenges would mar her duties in the government.
Health Minister Wael Abu Faour, who was one of the speakers at the opening ceremony, lamented that “women are seen at the front lines in times of hardship, but they are placed at the rear in times of peace and forgotten.”
Abu Faour expressed hope that “the disappointments of women during this new Arab era won’t be as many as they have been in the past decade,” adding that women would one day assume their rightful role but that this would come after years of struggle to make their voices heard.
Former Minister Amal Afeish, who represented the first lady at the ceremony, stressed that it was more important that women assume positions of influence in society and not merely meet a workforce quota.