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    These (Wo)Men in Power

    The six women who ever made it into the Lebanese government

    So not too many people have reacted to the fact that no women are in government in the newly-founded ‘representative’ (sic !) Mikati team. Representative ? For a word that says all and nothing in our country, it is indeed truly representative of the situation of women in Lebanon. Previous governments had made the (small) effort of including a couple of women in their teams, in a role usually renegated to Minister of State to the least, and Social Affairs to the most (with the exception of one Finance Minister). – I ask the question: Is it because they cannot do more than that? Because they are not as qualified and educated as their male counterparts? Because they cannot fulfill their roles as mothers and wives if they take on a political one?

    Well. One thing that should ring a bell in the machist ears of our governors is that for a country that prides itself to be an example of democracy in the region, marginalizing half (or more !) of its population is not-so-democratic. What is more, we stand well behind two Arab countries that we don’t like comparing our systems to : Morocco and Kuwait. With regards to women representativity, these two countries stand well beyond our record. Let’s not get started with the bill on women’s rights that did not receive Dar al Fatwa’s benediction a couple of weeks ago. Shall we remind them that King Mohammed VI of Morocco, himself descendent of the Prophet and Commandant of the Believers, changed the Shari’a Code to limit polygamy to two wives and and allow inheritance, among other reforms ? That’s for the Arab region, which still lags behind most regions in the world in terms of gender equality.

    One would ask, who should/can we compare ourselves to? I don’t like to have the « West » as an example, because we do not share the same historic trajectories, social norms, and values. More than that, it would be depressing to concede comparisons between, let’s say, Germany and Sweden, countries that now have to enact quotas for male participation (!) and us here, with our retrograded crimes of honor and nationality issues.

    But then, shall we compare our society to Latin America? Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner? Brazil, where the newly elected President of the Republic Dilma Rousseff has formed a government with 10 women ministers, the largest government in the world in terms of women presence? To Asia? Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Hasina, Thailand’s newly appointed Prime Minister, Kirghizstan’s President, India’s President? To Africa, where Liberia has been governed by a woman who was designated by the Economist as « the best president Liberia has ever had »? What arguments can our political leaders use to justify our retrograded stance and position towards gender (in)equality ?

    This week’s Courrier International has a very interesting special issue on « Women and Power ». Far from feminist perspectives, I’d like to put a question on the table. What if, what if, women actually governed the country in a real representative way? Have we ever wondered what the country would have acheived if the Deuxième Sexe was in power? I am not arguing that women should be in power because they have the right to or because they have been so marginalized that they should get there due to their gender. I quote a Brazilian chroniquor in her saying that « Appointing a woman as minister solely for her gender is totally stupid. But marginalizing her because she is a woman is even more stupid. » Rather, they should be considered for their qualifications and their capabilities (and please, don’t try to convince me that Lebanon doesn’t have qualified women). New research argues that when in power, women tend to get the job done faster and more effectively than their male counterparts. Male politicians are also more prone to be involved in corruption and sexual scandals. Let’s face it, politics will stay a male business for a long time, but the latter can make some efforts to make way for women.

    Alas, we need a generation shuffle to see a little change. It is not about women being in power, but about society being genuinely convinced that women should participate in political affairs, after which gender considerations should disappear and make way for the person – regardless of their gender – as an agent of change.

    One thing is sure, we would have less merchant-like disputes and a more elevated political vocabulary in our male-dominated Lebocracy.

    Lyna COMATY

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