Celebrating International Women’s Day in Lebanon: Winning with Women 

Moataz Ghaddar is a Lebanese researcher, trainer and consultant supporting GPG on our Lebanon project. Since 2021, he has been delivering training session to potential women candidates to municipal office. For International Women’s Day, he reflects on what women bring to the political scene in Lebanon and beyond.

The belief and expectation that men should out-perform women permeates into the educational, social, economic, and political spheres across cultures, impacting them at varying levels. A notable illustration of this is found in the issue of inequal representation and power distribution in politics, which Lebanese women face to this day. The restrictions and norms set for women by Lebanese society creates a sizable challenge for them to face in their fight to gain their full rights to participate and be represented in political life.  

In 2021, the World Bank highlighted that Lebanon was facing one of the world’s worst economic collapses since the mid-19th century. Although the seeds of this crisis were sowed over the course of the past few years, I believe that one of the major causes for it found its roots in Lebanon being one of the lowest ranked countries for female political representation and participation in the world. Even though Lebanon has been a signatory of the 1981 CEDAW agreement since 1997, the general situation in the country indicates a considerable gap between the equality in rights guaranteed under the Lebanese Constitution and the actual access to these rights for women.  

While Lebanese women are pioneers in many areas, they are still finding themselves needing to fight to gain access to the political sphere. Out of the 128 Members of the Lebanese Parliament, only five of them are women – yet we would never witness development without female engagement. As I write this blog, on International Women’s Day, many questions cross my mind: why does change in Lebanon remain so elusive? What hinders Lebanon’s development? The answer to these issues is simply “Women.” When empowered, women leaders can be amazing drivers of change and innovation. Women leaders can sometimes prove better at handling crises than they counterparts, as the Covid-19 experience has demonstrated. Undoubtedly, women’s gender-specific experiences inform their perspective and judgement, something which they bring to the policy-making process.  

Global Partners Governance supports women through carefully designed and delivered projects to strengthen female political participation and representation at the local and national levels. In collaboration with the Lebanese Organization for Studies and Training, GPG launched the Winning with Women initiative. This project aims to deliver strategic advice and training to potential women candidates to municipal elections. The sessions provide the tools to organise and conduct successful campaigns, along with relevant skills action points on which candidates will be relying when they run for office.  

Gender representation in politics is one of GPG’s five areas of expertise. Their projects have involved direct coaching and advice for women to develop and share the skills they need to access and hold leadership positions both within and beyond political parties while promoting the mainstreaming of gender-sensitive and equality policies. Their expert Associates include first female Home Secretary, former minister, and MP Jacqui Smith, former FCO (Foreign & Commonwealth Office) Minister and Minister for Women & Equality Meg Munn, former Deputy Speaker of the Serbian Parliament Gordana Čomić, and Lebanese campaigner Dr Halime Kaakour and local political and activist Dr Josephine Zgheib, who both supported the delivery of the Winning with Women project. GPG have worked on promoting allyship for women in politics in the past, notably thought their Male Allies project, which sought to encourage positive reflection on how men’s behaviour in the political environment can enable women to gain fair access to political participation and representation.  

Whilst working with the Winning with Women project, I witnessed the beautiful image of Lebanon and its diversity reflected in 46 ambitious and inspirational women who gathered from all over Lebanon and worked together harmoniously across political factions. They innovatively collaborated on developing local policies which address issues relevant in their communities. The “Winning with Women” project has demonstrated that Lebanon’s diversity is a source of enrichment rather than of difference. I believe that for the phoenix to rise again, aspiring women must be empowered to engage and make the change.

We will all win with women!