Women in Politics

By Carl Zoghzoghi 

Cover picture retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/company/women-politics-institute/?originalSubdomain=ae

           We live in a world where inequality between men and women has manifested itself throughout many different aspects of life, including unequal representation of women and men, differences in salaries, sexual discrimination and mainly gender roles in society. It has been strongly advertised that woman in society have one role, which is to bear children take care of their families, while men provide what is needed to maintain a living. Although today women have more freedom have made their way into the business world and the media, a major setback that drains women from their rights as citizens is the failure to reach positions in parliament. As a government is created for the wellbeing and order of society, there is a huge imbalance of power when it comes to gender representation, especially in Lebanon and Lebanese politics, where women are disregarded, and their voices and opinions are not heard. In order to raise awareness and the voices of women who are silences, there must be a certain balance between representatives in government. 

           Lebanon is one of the fewest ranked countries in terms of women representation in parliament, with only 3 percent constituting of women, and only five of the thirty ministers is a woman. Women have been fighting for equal access to opportunities and rights without prejudice against their gender but have been finding difficulty to face the patriarchal system which by nature excludes women. “When Lebanese women decide to become politically active, they are faced with many challenges, from society’s expectations of them to gender stereotyping, and often limited access to the necessary resources to build a political career.” (Hivos, 2017) The way by which women are perceived in middle eastern society is greatly impacted by different factors, religion being one of the biggest. This not only circulates within everyday life, but is present in the system itself, creating a totally sectarian political system and that in turn strips women from some of their basic rights as citizens. The fact that Lebanese politics is also patriarchal restricts women even more from practicing politics at a higher level. 

           The Universal Human Rights Declaration of 1948 (HRD) states in Article 2, “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction or any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social original, property, birth or other status…” which means that there should not be any discrimination in order to have a healthy and democratic society. Every citizen of a democracy should have the right to freedom of opinion and expression (Art. 19 HRD), and the right to take part in the government of her or his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives (Art. 21 HRD). So why is it that women have still not been able to be part of Lebanese government, despite having shown great achievements and historical changes in the Arab world? Some argue that the Lebanese sectarian system is too complicated to establish a common ground between all. On the other hand, scholars like Nadia Khalife, a researcher in women’s rights, suggest that women start by entering smaller level position to establish a political pr to gain credibility and slowly integrate themselves in high level positions. 

           In Lebanon the household is still expected to be taken care of by the woman, and the husband works and provides for the family. Even though the percentage of women working has increased remarkably, the idea of the husband providing and woman caring for the household have not changed and is still a major factor in Lebanese society. In a patriarchal country with patriarchal values and norms, it is very hard for a woman to individually be a part of its bureaucratic system without facing many minor factors that affects the individual’s psychological state and makes her feel alone. Some people still do not take women in a high rank seriously which forces the government to hire men instead. But women are not bound to the way of thinking of these people and they try their best to get out of there comfort zones in the households into organisations full of men and try to prove their ground and that they are worthy and capable of finishing the job being done by a man. 

           Yet, in a study conducted by Jeffry Lazarus and Amy Steigerwalt, they found that women might actually be better representatives than men. They state that women spend more time and effort communicating with their constituents than men, and that female House members send on average 17 percent more mail to constituents than men do. If we look at things outside of politics, for example the workplace, you will also notice that most businesses with women have had more success. For example, in a study of a work environment by Credit Suisse, they show that a workplace with gender equality has a better organizational performance and provides a more global and holistic view of the challenge companies face. They also state that the quality of life in the workspace is more likely to improve when more women are part of a company’s management board. “Overall, women look like they’d be better managers under certain circumstances. They tend to encourage their colleagues to work and better monitor their progress.” (Credit Suisse) Following this logic, it goes without saying that the work ethics of women is very credible, and this could easily be applied to politics, especially in Lebanon where it is clear that communication and respect are big problems when it comes to the relationship between government members. 

           Since women are unable to join parliament easily and reinforce laws that protect women, there has been many groups advocating for women in Lebanon, one of which is KAFA, which is a feminist NGO that fights against discrimination against women, focusing on family violence, human trafficking, and child protection. “This group was instrumental in the passing of the law against domestic violence in Lebanon’s parliament” (Bardy, 2020). Other NGOs that have contributed to women’s rights include Helem, whose main goals are towards ending discrimination as well as counter the AIDS epidemic and other sexually transmitted diseases. The Lebanese Democratic Women’s Gathering which was founded in 1976, is a secular women’s right organization which has “has implemented programs in the fields of education on women’s rights, eliminating violence against women and promoting adult literacy, which aim to promote the empowerment of women in social, economic, and political fields.” (Jaber, 2018). Although there is all of this work being done by women to help other women, and some have achieved in reforming laws, NGOs are still not powerful enough or as powerful as they should be, whereas if placed in higher political positions, they could achieve so much more to obtain a more sustainable and safer environment for Lebanese society. 

           A recent example of female leadership being more prominent, is evident with the rise of COVID 19, it has been clear that countries with female leaders have had better performance on two levels. There has been “lower positivity rates and fewer Covid-related deaths…Female heads of state tended to act more decisively in combatting the disease, with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-Wen (#37) introducing over 100 measures to block the spread of Covid-19 back in January and New Zealand’s PM Jacinda Ardern (#32) stopping the community spread of Covid-19 in her nation” (Pepera, 2008). Although this is not mainly due to female leadership, it is suggested that countries with democratic principles seem to handle crises more efficiently. 

           Another important factor to consider, is that women make up a bit more than half of the population in Lebanon, reaching 51.2%. In order to ensure that rights and laws are implemented to protect women’s rights, it goes without question that there must be more women in government to represent half of the population, including violence against women, sexual harassment, and even a different issue concerning passing down the Lebanese nationality to their children or foreign partners, which is an issue that the Lebanese government has failed to address.

           Who would be better at representing women other than women? Certainly not a government that lacks the latter, and to be able to have an equal and democratic state, there must be an equal amount of power between the people of government, regardless of sex, gender, race or religious or political affiliations. Since women have better ways in encouraging better progress, and tend to be more emotional, their presence in government can play a big role in defining and implementing laws that protect the rights of women and even encourage better work environments within the parliament. Even though women are still considered to be inferior, and their roles in society are expected to be domestic rather than political, women have been able to defy those shackles and strive for a greater future. And although there are NGOs that are working hard on protecting the rights of women and promoting equality, they are still lacking a more reliable power, especially political, and it makes implementing their goals and desires for a better future much harder. Male and female members of parliament must work together in order to solve the problems in their country and meet goals that build a stronger and more sustainable future.


1. Hivos. Patriarchy and Sectarianism: The Gender Trap. Daleel Madani. Retrieved May 15, 2021, from https://daleel-madani.org/ar/civil-society-directory/hivos/resources/patriarchy-and-sectarianism-gendered-trap-baseline-women-politics-case-lebanon 

2. UDHR – Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Retrieved May 16, 2021, from https://www.ohchr.org/en/udhr/documents/udhr_translations/eng.pdf 

3. AlJazeera News. Why do Few Lebanese Women Make it into Parliament. AlJazeera. Retrieved May 16, 2021, from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/1/21/why-do-few-lebanese-women-make-it-into-parliament 

4. Fournier C. 6 Arguments for More Gender Equality at work. You Matter. Retrieved May 17, 2021, from https://youmatter.world/en/equality-men-women-work-performances/ 

5. Why You Should Vote for a Woman in 2018. The Conversation. Retrieved May 17, 2021, from https://theconversation.com/why-you-should-vote-for-a-woman-in-2018-91969 

6. Pepera, S. Why Women in Politics? Women Deliver. Retrieved May 17, 20201, from https://womendeliver.org/2018/why-women-in-politics/ 

7.Jones, N. From Kamala Harris to Jacinda Ardern: The World’s Most Powerful Women in Politics 2021. Forbes. Retrieved May 17, 2021, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/nicolettejones/2020/12/08/from-kamala-harris-to-jacinda-ardern-the-worlds-most-powerful-women-in-politics-in-2020/?sh=1c7ad0892450 

8. Brady, C. (30, September, 2020) 7 Facts About Womens Rights in Lebanon. Borgen Project. Retrieved May 17, 2021, from https://borgenproject.org/womens-rights-in-lebanon/ 

9. Jaber, Y. (08, March, 2018) 8 NGOs In Lebanon That Have Fought For Women’s And Human Rights. Beirut. Retrieved May, 17, 2021, from https://www.beirut.com/l/54963 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *