A newly launched partnership between the United Nations Development Programme, UN Women, the Government of Canada and the Lebanese American University to support women’s leadership and political participation in Lebanon
Beirut, 4 October 2023 – Today, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN Women, together with the Government of Canada, partnered with the Arab Institute for Women (AiW) at the Lebanese American University (LAU) launched the "Women in Leadership" project at the LAU premises.
Women in Lebanon remain underrepresented in political and public life due to a range of structural barriers and cultural norms that foreground male elites and male-dominated kinship structures. Based on the 2016 municipal elections results, women represent only 5.4% of the total council members. In the 2022 parliamentary elections, only eight women reached parliament (6.3%), placing Lebanon at the bottom of the women's representation ranking worldwide. In this context, UNDP, UN Women, and the government of Canada partnered with LAU to encourage local communities to embrace gender equality and acknowledge the roles of women leaders in different fields.
The launch event was attended by Her Excellency, the Ambassador of Canada to Lebanon, Mrs. Stefanie McCollum, the UNDP Resident Representative, Mrs. Melanie Hauenstein, the UN Women Representative, Mrs. Gielan El Messiri, and the LAU President, Dr. Michel Moawad.
Mrs. Myriam Sfeir, AiW president, presented the welcoming remarks and said, “Through this partnership, we are solidifying our commitments by strategically partnering with like-minded stakeholders to advance gender equality and work on creating a space for dialogue and knowledge sharing on women and gender issues”.
Then Dr. Michel Moawad, LAU President, highlighted the “concerted efforts like our partnership with you offer much-needed hope for gender equity. Transformative leadership and enabling initiatives such as our joint project can and should accelerate the momentum toward redressing accumulated discrimination and righting multiple wrongs”.
From her end, Mrs. Gielan Elmessiri, UN Women Representative in Lebanon, stated that “Women and girls are particularly underrepresented in public life and disproportionately excluded from consultations on issues that affect them. Concrete initiatives under this joint project working at the individual, institutional and community levels will strengthen the enabling environment for women’s participation in public life and decision-making and forge multistakeholder alliances to support positive changes in policies and laws”.
Mrs. Melanie Hauenstein, UNDP Resident Representative, ensured that “UNDP is investing in this initiative, students of today will later be a generation of empowered women voters and potential candidates. Working on gender equality at universities and with academia will help profoundly impact the ideas and beliefs of students, who represent the future decision-makers and experts of Lebanon”. She added that “this effort is pivotal for developing and shaping the future of Lebanon, as it advances gender equality, supports women and girls, and fosters a more inclusive, equitable, and prosperous society”.
Finally, H.E. Mrs. Stefanie McCollum, the Ambassador of Canada to Lebanon, announced in her speech that “through its Feminist Foreign Policy, Canada promotes women’s political participation as a human right, placing an emphasis on dismantling unequal power structures, discriminatory norms, and persistent social, political, legal and economic barriers to gender equality”. She also stated that “the partnership announced today to document and increase awareness of women leaders’ success stories is so crucial. Acknowledging women’s unrecognized achievements in all fields will encourage the next generation of young women to aim for, and eventually reach, leadership roles within their own communities”.
Under the framework of this one-year partnership, the project includes a series of activities dedicated to acknowledging women’s unrecognized achievements in different fields, namely politics, literature, education, journalism, activism, science, engineering, and the arts, including a planned TEDx LAU Women’s talk linked to the global annual TEDxWomen event.
Furthermore, “Al Raida” journal of the AiW will issue a special edition to document the many advancements of women and gender equality change makers in Arabic and English as well as a book highlighting the contribution of pioneering Lebanese Women leaders. Another activity will be conducted this year related to an online database search engine for women pioneers “Who is She” with the objective of providing the public with easy access to biographical information on a large number of contemporary women in one of the following categories opinion leaders, senior managers, politicians, professionals, artists, researchers, and experts within a wide range of subjects.
This project also further underlines the continuous joint commitment of UNDP, UN Women, and the government of Canada to engage with academic institutions and provide support and initiatives to improve fair participation opportunities for women and enhance their role and representation in decision-making positions.