The numbers of women candidates in Lebanon’s last election may have been small, but the number of women who won an election was relatively high.
Seventy-eight women won seats on the new municipal councils, up significantly from the five seats women held after the last election. However, women still have far to go before reaching gender equity, given that women still hold only one percent of the total seats.
Lebanese politics differs from politics in the West because of its emphasis on religion. “During the local elections, politicians were afraid of losing the sectarian balance, but they didn’t seem to mind whether women were fairly represented,” said a lawyer at a recent women’s conference in Lebanon.
It is common for women to work in a variety of fields in Lebanon. While the fields of medicine, law, and business are relatively open to women, politics still remains difficult. Many political positions are passed from father to son.
Some people in Lebanon, however, are beginning to view women’s approach to politics as a fresh and much needed change.
“We have a lot of capable women in Lebanon, especially because they’re still new to the field, they are still far away from things like bribery,” said newly elected council member Roula Ajouz. “Women tend to look at things differently. When given a chance they will work 10 times harder than anyone else, just to prove themselves. Of course we still have a long way to go, but this is a good first step.”