Women's Movements in Lebanon
Timeline: January, 1920 to December, 2004
Between 1940 and 1960, the first generation of feminists mainly consisted of a group of elite men and women, concerned with various forms: religious, national cultural, familial and those who formed as a branch of men associations.”, which partly included educating women to improve their role as mothers. Making education accessible for women led to the emergence of different types of women’s organisations in “
Shortly after, thefor political rights started, as the first explicitly deprived women of these rights, leading to the demonstrations and organised collective action.
In 1952, the Lebanese Council of Women was established; an umbrella organisation of 170 – mainly confessional and sectarian NGOs. Although their aim was “to lead and give direction to the Lebanese feminist movement,” their main achievements were providing .
Thus, the agenda – that did not only lack a strong feminist standpoint, but also did not radically break with paternalistic traditions – was described to fit the sectarian system and seemed to focus on upper economic and social classes. As such, the first generation of women’s activist mainly demanded the right to vote, education and representation, fueled by theof female journalists, and mainly consisted of charitable organisations. Moreover, at the time tended to mix national identity and independence with .
The second feminist wave started in 1967, following the Arab defeat in the Israeli-Egyptian war. The caused by this, triggered a process of critically considering nationalist ideologies, eventually facilitating the rise of leftist feminism. Women’s organisations mainly focused on humanitarian work, and were encouraged by Fouad Chehab’s reformist policies. Yet, although women’s organisations split off on an organisational level from political parties, they were often still with their ideology. For example al-tajammou al-Nisa’i al-dimocrati al-lubnani (Lebanese Democratic Gathering of Women - LDGW) was affiliated with Munazamat al-‘amal al-shuyu’i (the organisation of Communist Action - OCA) and al-Ittihad al-Nisa’i al-taqaddumi (the Progressive Women’s Union) connected to the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP).
In addition, the leftist and elitist League of Lebanese Women’s Rights was legally recognised in 1970, although it has been since 1947 for women’s rights in (rural places of) Lebanon, mainly focusing on lobbying for women’s rights in parliament, promoting women’s participation in politics, and enhancing the debate between different social groups. shaped this wave of feminism, as the focus of activism from women’s rights to relieving consequences of tensions and acts of violence during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). Women’s organisations soon became more involved in organising charitable activities, focusing on in particular.
In the years that followed, collaboratives enhancing the debate about women’s rights were rising. That is, in 1975 the World Conference on Women was held in Mexico City, encouraging the debate on equality between Third World feminists and their Western colleagues. In 1985, the World Conference to Review and Appraise the Achievements of the United Nations Decade for Women: Equality, Development and Peace was held in Nairobi. The conference brought , leading the United Nations to this event as “the birth of global feminism,” and founded the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
On June 27, 1990, feminist Laure Moghaizel together with a delegation from the Human Rights Association, initiated the introduction of a clause in the Lebanese constitution, highlighting Lebanon’s commitment to the International Declaration of Human Rights, thatis still useful for contemporary activists.
In sum, the second generation of feminists fought for expanded political rights, notably suffrage. At the same time, women’s organisations failed tovalues they defended into their own discourse, which was still structured conform a sectarian system. , female identity still strongly interwoven with national identity, and characterised by the absence of influence on decision-making processes.
It was only in 1995, after the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, that the emergence of the third wave of feminism. During this wave, legal and perceptual gender mainstreaming were mainly demanded for. New terms, such as “gender based violence”, “full citizenship” and “positive discrimination” were introduced, and the inclusion of women’s rights into human rights was strongly advocated for. This eventually led to Lebanon signing CEDAW, binding the country to the Conference’s directives that were not (yet) recognised by Lebanese laws.
In the 1990s, international organisations’ efforts al-hay’a al-wataniya li-shou’oun al-mar’a al-lubnaniya (National Commission for Lebanese Women, NCLW) was created, in order to outline the role of women in the Lebanese society. In addition, al-lajna al-ahlia limutaba’at qadaya almar’a National Committee for the Follow Up of Women’s Issues and the Lebanese Council to Resist Violence Against Women (LECORVAW) were established.. For this purpose
This encouraged feminist civil society organisations to NGOs. Until then, it was mainly the intellectual bourgeoisie fighting for women’s rights. The not only affected internal (organisational) structures of women’s organisations, but also the : to fight for gender equity and fight stereotypes, strengthen women’s economic and political empowerment and participation in civil society, and fight . An important characteristic of such “globalisation” is the continuous dependency on , and the concurrent shaping of agendas and priorities.their practices into
In this vein, feminism had gotten a global and multicultural character. Old, Collective for Research and Training on Development-Action (CRTD-A). CRTD-A aims to contribute to social justice and gender equality, primarily in the Maghreb region, on the social and economic development of local communities, gender and citizenship and developing women’s capacities and leadership. Another main actor is KAFA (Enough) Violence & Exploitation, seeking to mitigate “causes and effects of violence and exploitation of women and children.”structures and alliances were falling apart, with the rising of forming a between the third and fourth wave of feminism in Lebanon, such as the
Although these organisations – supported by international organisations, international non-governmental organisations and women’s funds – are the main actors in the field of gender issues, both organisations Lebanese Council of Women.themselves as women’s associations, nor did they join the
In 2001, headed by the Women’s Democratic Gathering, the Lebanese Women’s Network was established out of thirteen feminist organisations, promoting complete gender equality.
Theof feminism can be identified in the early 2000s and highlighted rights, and were in line with the LGBT movements around the world were fighting for. Just like earlier generations of feminists, this generation for more sexual diversity and women’s economic empowerment. In addition, they raised awareness for the legal vulnerability of victims or underrepresented groups (such as LGBTs or migrant workers), as well as environmental issues, male-centred knowledge and arts. Just like earlier generations of feminists, this generation advocated for more sexual diversity and women’s economic empowerment. Still, the fourth generation of feminists itself by the use of internet – and more notably, social media – as a platform, connecting them internationally to other feminists.
In 2004, the Anti-War & Anti-Globalisation Movement, consisting of “social movements, organisations, political parties, networks, and coalitions from 54 countries who are struggling for global peace and justice and who are committed to equality, solidarity, and diversity” gathered in Beirut to express solidarity with the people in the region fighting for these values. Multiple women’s cooperatives attended. Helem, the first LGBTIQ organisation in the region and in Lebanon, saw the light within this period.
In 2007, Meem, a group that split off from Helem, became independent and focused on all issues that were not related to politics and religion. Feminist Collectives was established, as an to publish politically related opinions. As , Nasawiya aimed to distinguish itself from other feminist movements by emphasising , and . Although they were not linked to any political party or ideology, the political sphere was approached by experienced, facilitating . Yet, it were political differences that led the movement to .In 2010, Sawt an-Niswa, was created in an attempt to create a feminist platform for knowledge production and theorisation. Lastly, in 2011, the Anti-Racism Movement (ARM) was established, a grassroots movement by young activists, focusing on “documenting, investigating, exposing and fighting racism” in Lebanon and notably focusing on the dynamics between gender and racism.
As may become clear, the four waves of Lebanon’s feminism reflect that women’s rights movements are shaped by Lebanon’s history, and vary not only in demands, but also in organisational structures, political and ideological affiliation, main actors and agendas. By this, women’s landscape is polarised into “top-down corporatist forms of organising (NCLW, LCW, CFUWI) with ties to the religious and political leadership, bottom-up grassroots leftist women’s organising (LWDG, LLWR) and development-driven professional NGOs (CRTD-A, KAFA).”