Advancing Gender Equality One Step at a Time in Lebanon

Woman take part in Beirut Marathon Women's Race

Beirut Marathon Women’s Race

by Hala Nasrallah

Saradar Bank Women’s Race attracted many participants from Lebanon and a number of Arab and Western countries in the Lebanese city of Jounieh. Slogans supporting women's rights and the need to activate their role in political, economic and social spheres have been widely echoed through social media.

The marathon started at the Fouad Chehab Sports Complex in Jounieh and attracted 1,026 Lebanese women as well as women from the United Arab Emirates, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt and Tunisia.

The daughter of the Lebanese President Chantal Aoun, the representative of the UN Secretary-General in Lebanon Sigrid Kag, Ambassador of the European Union Christine Lassen, former Lebanese Minister of Interior Ziad Baroud, Minister of Women’s Affairs Jean Ogasapian and Secretary General of the Lebanese Olympic Committee Hassan Rustom participated in the race.

Chantel Aoun gave the signal for the race to begin and stressed in a statement that the Lebanese woman is not just a "nanny or a mother” and has all the qualifications that enable her to contribute to the improvement and development of society. "Women should be supported and empowered in political and societal life in Lebanon," she said.

The president of the Beirut Marathon Association, May Khalil, said "Lebanon has become known as a platform for sports that carry a humanitarian message, allowing women to express their aspirations."

In his speech, the Minister of Women's Affairs Jean Ogasapian, said that Lebanese women have the physical and psychological capabilities and have proven their presence in all fields, therefore it is necessary that they reach political equality with men.

Women working in civil society organizations and political parties including the Progressive Socialist Party, the Future Movement, the Amal Movement, the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement also took part in the marathon.

The participation of women with disabilities was a message to the Government and the House of Representatives in Lebanon to enact laws that support the equal and active participation of people with a disability in economic and political spheres.

25 women from the Arab Women Parliamentarians Network for Equality also participated in the marathon and actress Kholoud Kassem sent a message to the organizers laying stress on the importance of sports in enhancing the role of Arab women in the political process.

The Women Pioneers association were also involved in organizing the Women’s Race, a number of its representatives confirmed to Majalla that as a party they came up with the slogan "Partisan or independent - our objective is political equality."

The president of the Women Pioneers association, Christine Ajoub, told Majalla “Women participated to demand improved political conditions and the implementation of legal quotas for women, which will guarantee 30 percent representation of women in the Lebanese parliament."

According to Ajoub, women’s rights issues are supported by the judiciary and a group of lawyers who take every opportunity to bring the case to officials in the Lebanese government.

The marathon received strong support from the residents of Jounieh who thanked the activists on social media and the Municipality of Jounieh for its efforts in establishing sports and cultural activities to advance human rights issues.

In recent times, Lebanese women have increasingly organized demonstrations and sit-ins to demand that they be granted citizenship rights at a time when a group of Islamic and Christian religious institutions refuse to give women this right based on religious texts that define the rights and duties of women in society.

Several Lebanese human rights organizations are seeking to train women to practice political activities and lobby parliament and the government to implement gender quotas to increase the representation of women in decision-making positions after their representation in parliament and government dropped to less than 5 percent.

Political observers have ruled out the possibility of a gender quota at a time when Lebanon is stuck in the spiral of electoral law. They also predict that it is unlikely that the political parties will agree on a new electoral law before the next parliamentary session. In addition, official reports issued by human rights organizations have pointed to the high crime rates against women in Lebanon and the inability of Lebanese law to protect them from violence.

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