Lebanese Parliamentary elections 2018. Photo: UN Women/Jean Safi

Lebanon enjoys one of the most vibrant feminist movements in the Arab region. The right of Lebanese women to vote was recognized in 1952, and since then Lebanese women have made great strides in advancing the women´s empowerment agenda. Lebanon’s ratification of the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1997 catalyzed a greater awareness of women’s rights within Lebanese society, followed by the establishment in 1998 of the National Commission for Lebanese Women (NCLW), which is affiliated with the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. Today, primary school enrolments of girls and boys are equal and 83 per cent of Lebanese women are literate.[1] In 2016, the Office of the Minister of State for Women’s Affairs (OMSWA), was created to support the advancement of gender equality and women’s empowerment in Lebanon that was replaced in the 2019 Cabinet by the State Ministry for Economic Empowerment of Women and Youth.

However, a number of legal, institutional and social hurdles to women’s full enjoyment of their rights remain in place. Lebanon has maintained reservations on the CEDAW Article 9(2), regarding nationality; several subparagraphs of Article 16(1), related to personal status laws; and Article 29(1), on the settlement of disputes on the interpretation of Convention to the International Court of Justice. In Lebanon, the labour force participation rate for women aged 15 years and above is 22 per cent compared to 72 per cent for men.

Lebanon is currently placed 145 out of 153 countries on the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Index 2020. In terms of prevalence of domestic violence, 65 per cent of reported incidents are committed by family members, and 71 per cent took place inside the survivor or perpetrator’s household. Moreover, 18 per cent of reported cases of Violence Against Women (VAW) involve incidents of sexual violence, of which 8 per cent involve rape (2016).

To fully achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, in accordance with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, more efforts are required, including to increase women’s representation in decision-making bodies. Despite a record number of women standing in the 2018 national elections, only 4.68 per cent of the members of parliament are women. Women were also under-represented in the cabinet until 2019 when, for the first time in its history, four women were appointed ministers. In January 2020, this number continued to increase with the appointment of six women ministers including the first ever woman Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister. The pressure on delivery of essential services in the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment is increased by the need to support the large refugee population hosted in the country, which also comprises vulnerable women and girls.

Since 2012, UN Women Lebanon office through the global grant-making mechanism, the Fund for Gender Equality (FGE), has provided financial and technical support to civil society organizations in Lebanon, with the support UN Women’s Regional office for the Arab States (ROAS). Remotely since 2015 and with its on-the-ground presence as of 2017, UN Women Lebanon has expanded its intervention and currently works in the areas of Women’s Economic Empowerment; Women’s Political Participation; Women, Peace and Security; and Men and Women for Gender Equalityin line with the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Through its interventions, UN Women aims to fully engage women in political institutions and processes and to provide them with means to access decent work and income security. It also seeks to guarantee women’s participation in decision-making, at the household and community levels, and in peace and security commitments, so that women may participate equally in the socio-economic development of Lebanon. UN Women also engages men and boys in addressing negative stereotypes and inequalities.


[1] Living Conditions of Household Survey, Lebanon, 2004