“Rethinking labour rights interventions for women in Lebanon”

May 14, 2015

“Rethinking labour rights interventions for women in Lebanon”, 14th of May  2015

On the 14th of May, Lebanon Support organized a roundtable discussion on rethinking labour rights interventions for women in Lebanon, especially in regards todiscrimination against women in the job sector, tackling issues such as equal employment opportunities, equality in wages, benefits, and sick and maternity leave. This event was the 2nd of a series of roundtable discussions designed to address gender equity and reflect on gender actors experiences. The roundtable findings will be featured on the Gender Collaborative Information and Knowledge Network online collaborative platform on Lebanon Support’s online platform the CSKC (Civil Society Knowledge Centre).

The discussants were Manar Zaayter, lawyer and activist at the Lebanese Democratic Women Gathering (LDWG) and Tina Holtgaard Oulie, Associate Expert, Gender Equality and Decent Work, International Labor Organization (ILO).

The panelists’ presentations tackled the issue of unpaidlabour, mostly at home, and how increasingly more programmes and interventions raising this issue are doing so through the agenda of international organizations and NGOs.

These agendas seem to be focusing increasingly and mostly on the issues pertaining to Women Migrant Domestic Workers (WMDWs).  The panelists also noted how it is essential to be attentive to the conditions of this category of  women, keeping in mind that the defense and promotion of other women’s rights should not, however, be discarded.

The panelists further pointed out that the value of work is measured through four factors: qualifications needed, responsibilities held, efforts, and working conditions. They then reiterated that poor working conditions, early marriages, an increase in school dropouts, and discrimination in laws all contribute to low women participation in the labour force, and that those who participate in the informal labour force, such as migrantdomesticworkers for example, are excluded from Lebaneselabourlaws, making them prime candidates for NGO interventions.

The discussants firmly agreed on the right of domestic workers to organize, and that labourinterventions should target all women, and should also focus on international standards like equal pay which would benefit all workers. These labourrights should come in the scope of social justice, which involves three points: removing all reasons for discrimination, reducing the gap between work opportunities for men and women, and lobbying the state to empower individuals to take advantage of opportunities by providing education and removing obstacles that stand in their way of fair and livable employment.

In addition, discussants agreed that Lebaneselabourlaws should be modernized and address all forms of discrimination against women, especially in terms of collecting data on the harassment of  women in the workplace. The discussants then condemned the fact that feminist and rights based actors don't seem to be approaching discrimination against women from a socio-economic rights perspective.

Attendees raised other important matters as well, notably the fact that the lack of global vision and feminist ideals within NGOs is turning NGOs into institutions rather than social actors. These Civil Society agendas are being limited to their funders’ agendas, as gender actors are losing their collective power to pressure policy making on a state level.     

One final point raised was that gender interventions should be able to balance between targetedinterventions and more holistic ones, especially when these interventions tackle important issues like maternity leave, the wage gap, benefits, abortion rights and the right of women to give their nationality to their children.