Gender Afterworks: Informal discussion focusing on social and economic rights in Lebanon from a gender perspective

September 22, 2016

On the 22nd of September, Lebanon Support hosted a Gender Afterworks informal discussion focusing on social and economic rights in Lebanon from a gender perspective. The event was the first in a series within our Gender Equity Network, a thematic project part of our Civil Society Knowledge Centre, which aims to covers gaps in knowledge on this issue and make this literature easily accessible. The discussants were Manar Zaayter from the Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering (RDFL) and Ziad AbdelSamad from the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND).

The discussion analysed the structural and systemic inequalities that underlie women’s rights issues and reinforce male dominance and masculinity, both in a social and professional setting.

Ziad AbdelSamad noted that discrimination against women is prevalent in policy, and that this discrimination can oftentimes be hidden. For example, equal income taxation on both women and men does not take into consideration the gender pay gap. Because of this, income tax policy is discriminatory towards women. Likewise, Manar Zaayter emphasised that until state policies in development and labour include the component of gender, women will continue to deal with the effects of these policies, and suffer the repercussions of these discriminations. For example, without protection mechanisms for women in the labour market, not only are women exposed to harsh and unfair working conditions, but also harassment and sexual violence in the workplace.

With this, discussants and participants of the Afterworks agreed that development must have a strategy, with policies being updated and revised to acknowledge that women are working, contributing members of society that deserve the same benefits as men, and that masculinity must be deconstructed simultaneously along side this in order to reach effective change. One participant noted that in order to shape interventions and policies, research is first and foremost needed in the gender sector, as this is lacking in Lebanon. Additionally, there is a need to identify gaps in gender equality. This is because the groups and institutions that should be focusing on the gender gap are not. Universities, for one, are not looking into economic policies in general, even less economic policies concerning women. Similarly, NGOs do not work on this issue, not because there is no need, but rather because donor agendas do not push this issue [editor’s note: for more on this specific issue, read our report “Overview of Gender Actors & Interventions in Lebanon]. And lastly, political institution do not value research enough to base their interventions on it.

Even so, many discussants asserted that women themselves must carry some responsibility in achieving their rights, whether this is through being more engaged in politics, organising collective actions, asserting authority in the workplace or at home, or even gaining local investment as to uplift women’s social, political, and economic status. Countering this, some participants mentioned that women do not have the time to be politically engaged due to the “care work” they are socially responsible for in the household and rather found engaging men to be a a much more stategic approach to women's rights.

The discussion ended with questions on CSO work and the actual impact of CSO interventions on gender equality in Lebanon, and the influence of donors agendas on CSO’s programming.