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Conference on “Women's Work: Towards Gender-Sensitive Public Policies” at UN House

Conference on “Women's Work: Towards Gender-Sensitive Public Policies” at UN House
Comprehensive & Practical Recommendations presented to Ministry of Women's Affairs

Lebanese Minister of Women’s Affairs, Jean Oghassabian opened today at the UN House a one-day conference entitled, “Women’s Work: Towards gender-sensitive public policies,” organized by the Ministry of Women's Affairs in cooperation with the UN Information Centre in Beirut (UNIC Beirut) and SMART Center for Media and Advocacy.

MPs Elie Keyrouz and Atef Majdalani and former Minister Ziad Baroud attended the event, in addition to representatives of Lebanese political parties, women’s associations and activists in the field, as well as media professionals.

The conference opened with statements by Minister Oghassabian, Director of UNIC Beirut Margo El-Helou, Director of ESCWA Centre for Women Mehrinaz El-Awady and Representative of SMART Center Randa Yassir. Two roundtable discussions followed, the first on “Laws and their impact on women's work,” and the second on “Legislating Gender-mainstreaming in the Public Sector” respectively.

In his opening statement, Minister Oghassabian commended the “tremendous efforts” exerted by Lebanese associations and the National Commission for Lebanese Women in terms of gender mainstreaming in the public and private sectors. He added that Lebanese women must be effectively present in decision-making positions, both in the political and private spheres. He concluded by stressing, “the goal behind dedicating a Day for Lebanese Women is not to celebrate,” because the real celebration is “when Lebanese women can pass their nationality to their children, and when they occupy half the seats in Parliament.”

El-Helou, in turn, stressed the need to break stereotypes of women in the workplace and avoid limiting them to specific functions. She called for uniting efforts to go beyond theoretical discussions on women's issues, and move towards a concrete reality that consecrates women as partners in the public sector, one that helps them attain higher leadership positions commensurate with their competence, intellectual abilities and practical achievements. “We aim today to come up with practical recommendations that will usher in an ‘equal opportunity’ phase in Lebanon, one that is characterized by equality between women and men in the labor market and in the public sector in particular,” she said.

In her intervention, El-Awady said that achieving equality in the Arab region is not a task for men alone. “It requires the involvement of the other half of society, namely women,” she added, pointing out that women's economic participation, especially in the labor market, is one of the most important factors that will contribute to achieving equality and boosting the economy. She concluded by emphasizing the solution lies in the hands of governments, ministries and other concerned parties, since everyone has a role, be they civil society, trade unions, employers, or the UN and international bodies.

Yassir – for her part- pointed out that the conference aimed to highlight the participation of women in the public sector, and to devise ways to improve the status of Lebanese women at the leadership and administrative levels. The recommendations issued by the conference, she added, will be submitted to the Ministry of Women's Affairs to be included in its action plan on legal reform. The action plan aims at achieving gender mainstreaming and ensuring justice for Lebanese women and for the entire society.

The conference resulted in a number of recommendations by participants that were raised to Minister Oghassabian and which revolved around electoral laws, penalties, labor, education, social security and economy in addition to general recommendations and ones raised by the Ministry of State for Women’s Affairs itself. Demands included: Adoption of a democratic, proportional and non-sectarian electoral law that involves young people and women; amendments to the penal code and other Lebanese laws to remove any gender discrimination; drafting legislations to address gaps in the labor law; elimination of gender discrimination and stereotyping from educational curricula; and abolition of conditions on women benefitting from family compensation for their non-working husbands.

The conference also called for the establishment of the National Observatory for Women; the adoption of a law that penalizes sexual harassment; and the development of practical decrees concerning laws on human trafficking and violence. Among the recommendations also were calls for improving women’s representation of the government at the international level - equally to men; improving women's participation in international conventions; and involving women in decisions relating to the management of society and State, particularly decisions on war and peace, among others.

At the closing session, Yassir submitted the recommendations to Minister Oghassabian’s advisor, Abir Chebaro, and MP Elie Keyrouz. Chebaro said that these recommendations will be included in the action plan of the Ministry’s National Strategy, and that work on some of those priorities has already started.