NADA ZAROUR SPEAKING AT SYMPOSIUM – WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP IN THE ARAB WORLD

IMG-20160523-WA0001The Word Nada Zarour President Of Green Party Lebanon About Leadership and Particiation Of Women In Political and Public Life , Word came within a workshop organized by the Sciences Po in Paris

Ladies and Gentlemen:

As president of the Green Party of Lebanon, and like all Lebanese citizens, we have big responsibilities upon our shoulders, and sizable challenges coming ahead that we must face. Our country is threatened by multiple crises and we should be ready to deal with them. We need a country where living conditions are fair and human rights are respected.

To be able to think of our nation as such… we should be able to dream beyond the norm. And to many people this dream is called the Green Party.

As a leader of a green political movement, our Party is a true alternative to all the mainstream ideologies that are engraved in our society. I feel a huge and serious sense of responsibility to be a steward of that hope, I am deeply committed to respecting the trust placed in me.

After only eleven years of existence, we have managed to achieve what much older parties only dream. we dared to differ. We differ because we are free of that fear that cripples our society and enslaves our fellow citizens… Fear of other denominations, We differ because our promises were made to be kept!

Looking back at the last five years, I feel proud that we were able to achieve a lot on policy, advocacy, and awareness levels.

The current Parliament of Lebanon has 128 deputies, carefully distributed between Christians and Muslims. However, there are only four women deputies (that’s 3%).

Meanwhile, in Lebanon, women continue to be discriminated against in law and practice, and to face gender-based violence. Lebanese women remain unable to pass their citizenship on to their husbands and children, and the parliament failed to pass a draft law criminalizing domestic violence, including marital rape.

There is a definite alienation between Lebanese women and politics. Lebanese women were never interested in getting involved in the political life of their country. Even long after they had gained the right to vote and to participate in National elections (1952).

Our political structure has always been dominated by men; and the patriarchal political culture is evident in our parliament, ministries, and municipalities. What

did not help was the hereditary system of political positions, which is prevalent till this very day. But the women’s unwillingness to participate is also to blame. Will that change in the upcoming elections? Hoping it would is not enough. We need to work for it. Women’s organizations are called upon today to amplify women’s voices in the political process, and rally support around those running for office, either as independents or representing parties.

Comprising over 50 percent of the world’s population, women continue to be under-represented as voters, political leaders and elected officials. Democracy cannot truly deliver for all of its citizens if half of the population remains underrepresented in the political arena.

GPL believes that equitable participation of women in politics and government is essential to building and sustaining democracy. The Institute is committed to working with women as partners and participants in GPL programs and activities.

GPL helps women acquire the tools necessary to participate successfully in all aspects of the political process. Our creative and wide-ranging programs – in both challenging environments where democracy is just beginning to flourish and in more established democracies – engage women in legislatures, political parties and civil society as leaders, activists and informed citizens. These programs create an environment where women can advocate on matters of policy, run for political office, be elected, govern effectively, and participate meaningfully in every facet of civic and political life.

Obstacles to Political Participation are many, but some of the most obvious ones are lack of public support even in the most developed democracies coupled with the lack of political party support; entrenched traditional views; lack of confidence; lack of financial means; lack of capacity building opportunities; lack of access to technology; and the fact that it is often physically unsafe to be part of political processes.

However, I believe that one of the ways to overcome these obstacles is to start changing public perception, and when talking about the obstacles, we should also talk about the benefits of having women in the decision making. These benefits are far reaching and result in better governance practices, including bigger

economic benefit, greater responsiveness to citizen needs, increased cooperation across party lines and more sustainable conflict resolution.

To help women overcome traditional and cultural barriers as well as build their confidence, one of the most impactful approaches from my experience is the local ownership of such efforts of assistance.

Determined to further women’s rights in our country, GPL worked closely with Women organizations focusing on building women’s political empowerment, their leadership and encouraging women entrepreneurs to seek political office. Under her leadership, the GPL built the capacity and confidence of women to lead in their communities.

At the local and community level all the way to the highest levels of government, women are often underrepresented in leadership positions, left without a voice in decision-making and ignored as an electorate. Women hold only 22 percent of national parliamentary positions globally. This means that women are underrepresented in all facets of the political process often due to social-cultural barriers, the absence of training and resources for women’s political organizing, standards of living and precarious economic challenges.

Through the conversation Empowering Women in Political Participation and Leadership, New Tactics in Human Rights has sought to uncover the tools, tactics and resources used by individuals and organizations to empower women to overcome the obstacles preventing them from political equity and equality. The obstacles to the political participation of women listed by the participants to the conversation were the lack of public/social support and political party support, entrenched traditional views, lack of confidence, lack of financial means, lack of capacity building opportunities, lack of access to technology, gender discrimination, division according to ethnic lines, violence, and intimidation.

Let’s talk about climate change for instance.

Detrimental effects of climate change can be felt in the short-term through natural hazards, such as landslides, floods and hurricanes; and in the long-term, through more gradual degradation of the environment. adverse effects of these events are already felt in many areas, including in relation to, inter alia,

agriculture and food security; biodiversity and ecosystems; water resources; human health; human settlements and migration patterns; and energy, transport and industry.

In many of these contexts, women are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than men—primarily as they constitute the majority of the world’s poor and are more dependent for their livelihood on natural re- sources that are threatened by climate change. Furthermore, they face social, economic and political barriers that limit their coping capacity. Women and men in rural areas in developing countries are especially vulnerable when they are highly dependent on local natural resources for their livelihood. those charged with the responsibility to secure water, food and fuel for cooking and heating face the greatest challenges. Secondly, when coupled with unequal access to resources and to decision-making processes, limited mobility places women in rural areas in a position where they are disproportionately affected by climate change. It is thus important to identify gender-sensitive strategies to respond to the environmental and humanitarian crises caused by climate change.

It is important to remember, however, that women are not only vulnerable to climate change but they are also active actors or agents of change in relation to both mitigation and adaptation. Women often have a strong body of knowledge and expertise that can be used in climate change mitigation, disaster reduction and adaptation strategies. Furthermore, women’s responsibilities in households and communities, as stewards of natural and household resources, positions them well to contribute to livelihood strategies adapted to changing environmental realities.

An analysis of how women are affected by these issues; and how they respond, is provided below together with references to relevant United Nations mandates and information sources.

Climate change has serious four dimensions of food security: food availability, food accessibility, food utilization and food systems stability. Women farmers currently account for 45-80 per cent of all food production in developing

countries depending on the region. About two-thirds of the female labor force in developing countries, and more than 90 percent in many African countries,

are engaged in agricultural work in the context of climate change, traditional food sources become more unpredictable and scarce. Women face loss of income as well as harvests—often their sole sources of food and income. Related increases in food prices make food more inaccessible to poor people, in particular to women and girls whose health has been found to decline more than male health in times of food shortages. Furthermore, women are often excluded from decision-making on access to and the use of land and resources critical to their livelihoods.

For these reasons, it is important that the rights of rural women are ensured in regards to food security, non-discriminatory access to resources, and equitable participation in decision-making processes.

It has been called “the world’s greatest diplomatic success” and a “monumental triumph for people and planet”. The United Nations (UN) climate change deal, known as the Paris Agreement, was signed by representatives of 195 countries on Saturday, December 12, to cheering, emotional speeches, and lively social media across the world.

The result of the largest gathering ever of world leaders, of various approaches to negotiation, including South Africa’s own Zulu tradition of indabas (pioneered at COP17 in Durban) and of two decades of efforts by the UN, the agreement is, undoubtedly, historic.

The agreement also, vitally, begins to recognize the need to take the disproportionate effects of climate change on women into account. Gender equality is addressed in clauses on setting up the committee to implement the agreement; the approach to adaptation; taking action and capacity building; as well as in the introduction to the agreement, which states “Acknowledging that climate change is a common concern of humankind, Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights […] gender equality, the empowerment of women and intergenerational equity”.

Women all over the world are not given their rights, and many non-governmental organizations are working hard in order to create equality between man and woman. In Lebanon, women have active roles in education and in the economy. Half of all the university students are women. Women’s education is very beneficial for them; it allows them to be active in the economy and to find opportunities in medicine, law, academia, the arts, and business. Unfortunately, few women have achieved senior positions in their field. Although the Lebanese constitution gives equal rights to men and women, and although women have a fairly good participation in many fields, they continue to be excluded from political institutions and from decision-making. This exclusion is due to many factors which can be improved if proper measures are taken.

Discrimination against woman has many grounds in Lebanon. First, discrimination is mainly socially based. Family values do not encourage women to participate in the public field; parents do not raise girls with the idea that they will be politicians. Many times, religious beliefs and practices give the woman a role of a subordinate which aggravates the situation. Second, discrimination against women is evident in the national curricula and in educational practices. For example, women are frequently given the roles of mothers, housekeepers, wives and possibly teachers or nurses. They are never presented as presidents, ministers or high officials. On another hand, leaders of political parties generally shy away from nominating women as part of their electoral lists. At the same time, there is no law in Lebanon that reserves for women a certain number of seats in the parliament or the cabinet of ministers, or that forces political parties to nominate women

Discrimination against women can be erased if proper measures are taken on all levels. It is important to change the way society perceives women, so we need to revise school curricula to make sure that they focus on successful women and that they show that women can have an active role in public life. Women can be portrayed as ministers, deputies, ambassadors and special attention is given to those women who have succeeded in Lebanon or elsewhere in the world. Moreover, a very big campaign should be launched to raise awareness among and change the dominant mentality about the role of women and the importance of their participation in decision-making and in politics. This campaign can be done through TV and Radio programs, NGOs and all other possible means. At the same time, it is very important to convince the government and the parliament to pass a law that reserves a certain number of seats for women both in the parliament

and in the cabinet and that forces public and private institutions to do the same. These measures might not erase discrimination but they will definitely improve the situation of women in my country.

In conclusion, although the laws give equal rights to men and women to practice politics, reality shows that there is discrimination against women in this respect due to many factors. This however, can be improved since Lebanese women, in general, receive good education and participate actively in the economy. I really look forward to see a woman elected as president of the republic. The Lebanese government and the people should join their hands to reach this goal, hoping for a world where all types of discrimination disappear!

Finally, I leave you with a few words by the UN general secretary Ban Ki Moon, who said:

Countries with more gender equality have better economic growth. Companies with more women leaders perform better. Peace agreements that include women are more durable. Parliaments with more women enact more legislation on key social issues such as health, education, anti-discrimination and child support. The evidence is clear:

Equality for women means progress for all.

Thank You

Nada Zaarour President

Green Party of Lebanon

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