By Lynn El Khoury
It all started on October 17, 2019. The Lebanese population woke up from the dream of believing that the official government is working for a better future. The people took the streets to protest against the government since the majority of them lost their jobs, families, youth, and stability from several disasters that hit the country. It began with the fires that lit in the Mount Lebanon region, the political and economic crisis, the management of the COVID-19 outbreak, and concluded with the Beirut explosion. These disasters root cause is due to the corruption that manifests in the government for over thirty years. Although the effect of corruption on disaster response affects all members, gender roles and stereotypes have played a role in affecting the vulnerable individuals in society, the women more than the men. Through the unemployment, financial dependency, and the difficulty of receiving treatment from healthcare centers, women are discriminated against.
To begin with, women were discriminated against by the employment opportunities which resulted in them becoming financially dependent. For instance, when the economic crisis started to occur in the country, women were the first to get laid off, or were given half salaries. According to the UN Women (2020), women’s unemployment rate rose from 14.3 percent in 2017 to 26 percent in 2020. From this, the cost of living became too expensive that they can no longer afford it. It is reported by the UN Women (2021) that about 53 percent of the Lebanese women that called the Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) hotline were demanding assistance in cash and support to meet their basic needs, and about 11 percent were requesting shelters. Moreover, women were forced to become dependent on men for survival and for financial support (Salti and Mezher, 2020). This may undermine their status and control in the community by being pushed into achieving the typical stereotypes of the patriarchal society by becoming housewives. Therefore, one question comes to mind, how has the government assisted in all this? Disregarding the fact that the government’s corruption was the main factor affecting women’s employment status, they took no action to deal with this situation and support the women after it occurred.
Moreover, during the global pandemic and later the Beirut blast, women received little access to healthcare facilities since there were no preparedness plans made to support women during these situations. About 45% of the households with pregnant or lactating women reported their need to receive treatment from gynecologists, support for breastfeeding, and vaccine injections (UN Women, 2020). The amount of women who actually received treatment from reproductive health services in MOPH primary healthcare centers reduced significantly from 18,825 in January 2020 to 10,093 in May 2020 (UN Women, 2020). During situations such as these, the United Nation Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) reports that the demand for bribes may increase due to the need to access healthcare centers (Cobucci, n.d.). This is further enhanced in the upcoming 2022 elections where the political parties try to use the vaccinations as a method to launch their campaigns by leading the communities to believe that they will end the pandemic (Ramadan, 2021). This may make the vulnerable individuals, the women, attractive targets to bribe for votes as an excuse to relief them from the hardships they are facing.
To conclude, women in Lebanon are highly affected by their unemployment, financial dependency, and lack of support and difficulty of receiving treatment from healthcare centers due to the significant level of corruption taking place. The solution lies in changing the government leading the people and implementing different response plans that would support women during times of disasters. This becomes vitally important in order to implement an equal well-rounded society.
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Ramadan, T. (2021, April 12). In Lebanon, Even vaccine distribution can’t escape political bribery. Retrieved May 11, 2021, from https://english.alaraby.co.uk/english/indepth/2021/4/12/in-lebanon-even-vaccine-distribution-cant-escape-political-bribery
Salti, N., & Mezher, N. (2020, September). WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF AN ECONOMIC BREAKDOWN: Assessing the differential impacts of the economic crisis on women in Lebanon. Retrieved 2021, from https://www2.unwomen.org/-/media/field%20office%20arab%20states/attachments/publications/2020/10/lebanons%20economic%20report%20updated%201110%20fh.pdf?la=en&vs=2852
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