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Activists to launch campaign to get women into Parliament
A general view of the Lebanese Parliament in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, April 17, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
A general view of the Lebanese Parliament in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, April 17, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
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BEIRUT: Local non-governmental organizations are set to launch a campaign to encourage women to take part in the upcoming parliamentary elections, activists said Tuesday.

The activists told The Daily Star that preparations for a nationwide campaign on television and a number of media outlets was under way to send a clear message to Lebanese women that they were capable of assuming key public positions in the country, including in Parliament.

Currently, only four of Lebanon’s 128 MPs are women. While champions of electoral reform have for years called on the government to reform the electoral law and include at least a 30-percent quota for women in Parliament, no significant legislation to boost the number of women in Parliament has been passed.

Last month, the government approved a new draft electoral law that would set a 10-percent quota for women in Parliament.

NGOs and activists have criticized the proposal, saying that a 10-percent quota is far too low and violates international agreements for more female representation. Joelle Rizkallah and Nada Anid, co-founders of local NGO Women in Front, said that the current percentage of women in Parliament was the lowest in the world.

“The 10-percent quota that the government approved came as a shock to us. We had been told by the ministers who voted for the draft law that there would be a 30-percent quota for women ... This was an insult to Lebanese women and the entire country,” Rizkallah told The Daily Star.

She said that women in Lebanon could not solely depend on men in Parliament to pass reforms and address issues that are pressing for women.

“We can no longer depend on 124 men in Parliament to legislate [bills] that are important for women,” she said.

Rizkallah said that Women in Front is currently working with a number of NGOs to run ads on all media outlets and encourage women to run for Parliament in elections scheduled for next year.

“We will also hold talks with all political parties to encourage them to nominate women on their lists next year,” Rizkallah added.

According to Rizkallah, issues such as a woman’s right to pass her nationality to her children and protection of women from domestic violence have not been seriously addressed because of the absence of women in Parliament.

“We know that when we get into the Parliament, reforms that have been neglected for years will be seriously addressed.

“The problems facing Lebanese women are felt and understood better by women and we cannot expect more from a Parliament that is overwhelmingly occupied by men,” she said.

For her part, Nada Anid said that the government’s approval of an only 10-percent quota for women was proof that politicians do not have women’s representation as a priority in their agenda.

“The campaign that will be launched by the NGOs will be heard by the voters and influence their voting next year,” said Anid.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 12, 2012, on page 3.
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