In my role as Convenor of the Equalities and Human rights committee I had the pleasure of meeting with a delegation of Lebanese members of parliament.
Lebanon’s history has been marked by significant periods of violent conflict, weak governance, and interference in the country’s affairs by its neighbours and global powers alike. Yet despite these difficult circumstances, the country has shown remarkable resilience, maintaining its independence while developing a political system that allows its diverse populations to live in relative peace through power sharing and short-term deal making. This fragile balance has held despite living in the middle of heated geopolitical conflict – including nearly two decades of Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon – the assassination of its Prime Minister Rafic Hariri in 2005, and a refugee crisis that has seen the country hosting over a million Syrians for over seven years.
The delegation was made up of 4 female MPs. We spoke about a wide range of topics and have many shared challenges, not least that politics and governance will lack inclusiveness and the necessary range of political views if women continue to be so woefully underrepresented. Only six women were elected in May 2018 to a national parliament comprised of 128 members – a slight increase from 3.1% to 4.6%, but far below the recommended minimum of 30% as defined under the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). In total, only 13 women have entered parliament in the history of Lebanon. For the first time in the history of the women’s movement in Lebanon, an alliance of over 150 CSOs developed a unified message regarding the creation of a gender quota. However, none of these efforts and proposals succeeded, and the new election law did not provide for a quota. Despite this disappointment, women were increasingly engaged around the 2018 elections and opportunities exist to advance reforms that promote WPE and increased representation at all levels of government.
And campaigning is necessary here too whilst we may be a little further down the road than Lebanon Scotland still has some distance to travel. Women 5050 is an organisation that was set up in Scotland in 2014 by lifelong feminist campaigners to challenge the under representation of women and I am delighted to have been asked to join its steering group alongside Kezia Dugdale MSP and Alison Johnstone MSP.
I’ll look forward to the work ahead and a time where out parliaments and council chambers are as diverse as the communities we are there to represent.