Press release: Launch of UN Women’s report on women’s experiences running for parliament in Lebanon’s 2018 elections

Date: Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Launch of UN Women’s report on women’s experiences running for parliament in Lebanon’s 2018 elections. Photo: UN Women/Jad Halabi

Beirut, February 25, 2020- In late 2018 and early 2019 UN Women interviewed 75 of the women who ran for Lebanon’s 2018 Parliamentary election; with the majority of the women in the 2018 elections standing as independents or part of civil society coalitions, 89% stated that their first priority in office would have been to push forward reform on women’s rights, with youth rights and corruption issues coming tied as second and third.

UN Women today launches its report, “Pursuing Equality in Rights and Representation: Women’s Experiences Running for Parliament in Lebanon’s 2018 Elections”. It documents the experiences of female candidates who ran to be Members of Parliament in the 2018 election and explores the challenges and opportunities they faced.

Of those interviewed, 68 per cent had prior experience in politics, debunking the notion that women are not experienced enough to lead, complementing 2019 data from the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies which found that on average women running were younger and better educated than their male counterparts.

The study showed that amongst the challenges faced by female candidates, financial restrictions and constraints were the most highlighted, especially when considered in contrast with the financial situation of male candidates. Women reported feeling ‘ashamed’ to fundraise, citing that it was ‘unethical’ of them to do so if they were not sure they could win. Moreover, women reported enjoying less access to the media than their male counterparts, decreased their exposure to voters, and that the access they did receive was often subject to sexism and gender discrimination. Amongst other things, candidates were routinely criticized for caring too much about their looks or being “pretty and sexy”, or conversely, for caring too little – in particular female candidates under 50.

78% percent of those interviewed reported that they had been victim of some form of violence during the election period, predominantly through social media. Yet, despite this, 91 per cent of interviewed candidates stated that they were planning to run again the next election.

UN Women’s report was launched today at the Arab Institute for Women at the Lebanese American University (LAU), during the event “Driving forward women’s leadership in Lebanon and the Arab region”, organized in collaboration with UN ESCWA and UNDP. A discussion around it brought together journalist Diana Moukalled, UN Women lead Consultant for the report Halimeh Kaakour, and former Lebanese Minister of State, Wafaa Dikah Hamzeh.

‘With calls for new elections emanating from the October protests, this report and discussion aims to feed into Lebanon’s thinking on how it can tackle the very real gender barriers that are in place – both institutional, legal and social – that inhibit women’s equal representation in decision making and politics’, said Rachel Dore-Weeks, UN Women Lebanon’s Head of Office.