Lebanon’s presidential campaign will see at least one woman candidate, after Nadine Moussa declares her bid next week.
Meanwhile, several thousand kilometers east, Afghanistan is also in the process of electing a new president, and one of the vice-presidential candidates this year is a woman, Habiba Sarobi. Afghanistan has been wracked by years of battle against Taliban extremism, and it’s a place where technological underdevelopment means some ballots are still transported by mule.
Afghanistan has a quota system in the legislature, so the two houses of Parliament each have more than one-quarter female membership.
Sarobi and other women there have been outspoken in their opposition to the Taliban’s stern political and social program. And while some people might say the quota explains the presence of female MPs, they must recognize that some of the women legislators have been the top vote getters in their districts. Women there have turned out in huge numbers for this year’s election, braving threats of violence to cast their votes at polling stations.
In Lebanon, advocates of boosting female participation in politics don’t have to put up with acid attacks or other forms of violence for daring to speak up. Before they talk about the modern and developed aspects of Lebanon, they should recognize that women in other areas – considered “backward” – are overcoming huge obstacles, while Lebanon lags behind. A quota, however, isn’t the answer to their problems either as it can inhibit competition.
A lone female presidential candidate is a positive sign, but the real progress will come when women turn out in big numbers to vote, run for office and win, at all levels.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 16, 2014, on page 7.