There are only six women lawmakers in the 128-seat Lebanese parliament. Nine months after the election, WFD supported four of them on a visit to the UK, to help them in their push for greater gender equality.
Inaya Ezzeddine, Dima Jamali, Rola Tabsh Jaroudi and Paula Yaacoubian have very different backgrounds, ranging from Shia to Armenian heritage. However, they all understand the importance of having greater women’s rights and increasing women’s participation in their country’s politics.
WFD invited these four women lawmakers to the UK this week, to share their experiences with UK MPs from all the major political parties and learn about different approaches to promoting gender diversity.
As part of the visit, WFD organised a series of meetings in Scotland and Westminster for the Lebanese lawmakers with MPs and peers interested in championing diversity and women’s rights. This included a meeting with the British parliamentary group on Democracy in the World chaired byLyn Brown MP.
By facilitating discussion between Lebanese lawmakers and their UK counterparts, the four women MPs were able to get a better sense of what has worked in the UK – and what may work in Lebanon to get more women into politics.
Lebanon has made a lot of progress in recent years. Out of 976 candidates who originally registered to run in the last election, 111 were female candidates – a staggering increase in comparison to just 12 women in 2009.
However, there is still a lot more to do, both in terms of legislation and attitudes to women’s role in the workplace.
Yesterday, the Lebanese lawmakers discussed the merits of introducing quotas for each Lebanese political party to ensure they had a minimum number of women.
Paula Yaacoubian has previously called for a 33% quota in Lebanon to give women fair representation, saying that “we don’t have a culture that understands that women are equal to men.”
At the meetings it was widely acknowledged that, whatever system is chosen, it is important to see the numbers increase alongside the cultural shift in the attitude towards women in politics which Yaacoubian says is necessary.
All of the women lawmakers are doing a lot to champion women’s rights in Lebanon – something which the Lebanese Ambassador to the UK HE Rami Mortada has also noticed. “We may not have many (women lawmakers) in terms of quantity, but I can assure you that we excel in terms of quality” he said.