Editor's note: NAYA’s Ministers' Series is devoted to spreading knowledge on the four women who broke the glass ceiling. They earned a seat at the table of Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s January 2019 cabinet comprised of thirty members. As Annahar’s NAYA exclusively delves into the backgrounds of HE Rayya El Hassan, HE Nada Boustani-Khoury, HE Violette Khairallah Safadi, and HE Dr. May Chidiac, we learn who these women are, how they gained a seat at the table, and how we can pull up a chair for more women in the future. For further information you can contact NAYA Editor Sally Farhat: Sally.firstname.lastname@example.org
BEIRUT: May Chidiac’s public debut started in 1985 when she was an anchor on LBCI. She quickly garnered a strong following and gained a spot in 1994 as the host of “Nharkom Saiid," which translates to “Good Morning Lebanon” in English.
Chidiac is known for being an extremely strong and outspoken personality, despite being dealt a formidable hand.
“I’m not sure how to tell you this but I think it’s genetic. I’m a lot like my father who passed away when I was 13 years old. I’m very outspoken, I have a good heart, but I know what I want. I’m very logical. If I have a target, I work hard to reach it,” Chidiac said.
The former journalist and professor was recently appointed to the seat of Minister of State for Administrative Reform. Chidiac explained to NAYA she was just “being herself” and working towards what she believed in with no expectation of any recognition.
“I never thought one day I would become a symbol of bravery and courage. Even when I was harassed with death threats I never thought I was important enough to be the subject of an assassination attempt. I thought they were trying to intimidate me and the worst thing that could happen was that I would be fired from my job. I didn’t think I would become a victim of bombs planted under the seat of my car,” Chidiac told Annahar.
Growing up during the Lebanese Civil War with a mother and three girls added a layer to Chidiac’s tough skin. The luxury of having an easy life without problems lingering over her shoulder is something she never knew.
“‘Bint al Hareb’ or ‘girl of war;’ I was born on the demarcation line in Gemmayzeh, I witnessed the war since it started in 1975-we were there trying to avoid the snipers and the shelling. I witnessed all of this, it was part of my daily life," Chidiac said. "It made me stronger.”
Chidiac was a bright student, skipping multiple grades as a child. This sentiment followed her to her professional career where she was the youngest anchor on Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation, or LBCI.
“They wanted me at the beginning to start my show in French. I Insisted on Arabic. I didn’t know this would save my job- they never had a French news bulletin at LBCI. At 21 I was the youngest TV anchor in Lebanon,” Chidiac told Annahar.
Chidiac, a mathematician by school training, altered her career path to become more self-reliant.
“I always knew I wanted to be on TV. I studied math at school so everyone expected me to pursue engineering. Imagine the shock when I pursued journalism,” she said.
On Speaking Your Own Truth
A common thread throughout Chidiac’s life is the stress on speaking your own truth. In fact, she risked her life by speaking out against the Syrian occupation of Lebanon despite consistent death threats.
“When they attempted to assassinate me, I didn’t take it lightly- it was awful. I had to call my mother and tell her myself. I brushed off getting my limbs amputated like it wasn’t a big deal, I told her I would be able to manage," Chidiac told Annahar.
On September 25, 2005, almost six months after the assassination of Prime Minister Rafic Al-Hariri, Chidiac was the target of an assassination attempt in Jounieh, Lebanon. The bomb was a one-pound device. The blast, which almost killed her, left her with severe burns, and a forearm and leg amputation.
“Life was never easy, it was really difficult, but with time I learned how to get used to my new limbs, my new body. I prefer not to look at it in the mirror. I do everything I can to cover where I have my prosthesis,” she said.
Narrowly evading death seems to have only fueled Chidiac’s strength and ingenuousness. She received her Ph.D., wrote two award-winning books, started her own Non-Profit, the May Chidiac Foundation, and went back on the air as the host of a new show.
“I have a cane but nothing more. I don’t have a knee, I have a bioelectrical knee and a very small elbow. I decided one day that I had to continue my life so I defended my Ph.D. thesis, I started my foundation, and I went back on air," Chidiac said.
In an interview held on July 2, 2006 with LBCI, she stated: "We live in an occupied country, in which we had to defend our rights, our survival, our sovereignty, and our independence... I think that in many cases, I was the voice of the citizens of Lebanon, because I had the courage to speak up, when other people preferred to count to ten."
Her foundation, the May Chidiac Foundation, and its affiliated Media Institute, were launched on the fourth anniversary of her assassination attempt.
“MCF is dedicated to training, research, and education on issues of media, democracy, and social welfare. The media institute aims to bridge the gap between academia and the media industry, providing students and professionals with state of the art technical facilities and training programs in order to improve their competencies and competitiveness,” according to the May Chidiac Foundation website.
Chidiac was awarded the Minerva Anna Maria Mammoliti Prize foe Human and Civil Rights in Rome in the “Women of the World” Category and named by Pope Francis Dame de l’orde de Saint Gregoire-le-grand at the Vatican.
Under UN Security Council Resolution 1757, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon was launched in 2009, primarily to hold trials for those responsible for the 14 February 2005 that killed former Prime Minister Rafic Al-Hariri and twenty-two others. The tribunal also has jurisdiction over attacks in Lebanon between 1 October 2004 and 12 December 2005, a range including Chidiac’s assasination attempt, if it is proven that they are connected to the events of 14 February and are of similar nature and gravity.
“If they find the link with former PM Rafic Hariri, our cases can be taken to be judged in front of the special tribunal. Unfortunately, until now they have only established the link with Marwan Hmadeh, Elias el Murr, and George Hraweh, but not in the case of Samir Kassir, Gebran Tueni, or myself. We hope in the future they will dig deeper and find the link,” Chidiac told Annahar.
Advice for Young Women
Chidiac, a symbol of resilience, stands as a role model for young men and women alike around the world.
“My advice is to stay positive and to not be afraid of challenges, whilst not complaining and not spreading negativity. I hate people who complain ‘oh life is so difficult.’ No! This is life; you have to take it as it comes,” Chidiac told Annahar.
Chidiac exclaimed that giving a half-effort version of yourself is not a path to success.
“Whatever field it is you’re working in, give it your all, don’t accept lingering in the margins. Do things well and see where life will take you.Whenever you have a chance, don’t let it go," she said.
Freedom of Expression and Responsibility are two values that Chidiac lives by.
“The point is, it was my decision to make, and I have to assume responsibility for the consequences. You can’t, under any circumstances, make a decision and proceed to blame others For me whatever decision you take, even if it’s blatantly wrong, you have to assume responsibility for this decision,” Chidiac told Annahar.
Welcome to “NAYA,” the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment. We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. NAYA is devoted to women of all generations. NAYA Editor, Sally Farhat: Sally.email@example.com
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