BEIRUT: President of the National Commission for Lebanese Women (NCLW), President of the High Council of the Arab Women Organization, Special Assistant to the President of Lebanon General Michel Aoun, CEO of Clementine SAL, wife, and mother of five children; Claudine Aoun-Roukoz has a lot on her plate.
In a conversation with NAYA, Aoun-Roukoz explained that eighty percent of her efforts today are directed towards women in an attempt to promote gender equality in Lebanon.
Aoun-Roukoz’s interest in women’s affairs is not something new. It started when she was still in college.
She completed a Master’s Degree in cinematographic and audio-visual studies at the Sorbonne University in Paris and chose to examine the role of gender in her dissertation. Her chosen subject revolved around the representation of women in French cinemas in the 1950s.
“When I was working on my dissertation, I read a lot of books about the history of women. This was when I sensed their sufferings from injustice and realized the importance of their roles in society,” Aoun-Roukoz told Annahar.
NCLW: Where the long journey begins
“It’s a cause that tugs at my heartstrings,” Aoun-Roukoz said when asked about women’s rights and empowerment.
“The post of President of the NCLW is usually occupied by the State’s First Lady. But, my mother handed this responsibility over to me because she knew how dynamic I was and how much advocating for women’s rights meant to me,” she stated.
Aoun-Roukoz sees that a comprehensive reform to all the country’s systems, including the educational system, are needed to witness a genuine change.
“The Personal Status Law is not only discriminatory between men and women, but also among women of different sects. Rights are not equal for all Lebanese citizens,” Aoun-Roukoz noted.
“We, at the NCLW, aim to contribute to the fight against gender inequality,” she added. “Women should be on an equal footing with men. All procedures and measures should be equally applied to both of them.”
The NCLW has been calling for the amendment of unjust laws. It demands to grant Lebanese women married to foreigners the right to pass their citizenship to their children on an equal basis with men; ban child marriage through a draft legislation that would set a minimum age of 18 for marriage; add some reforms to the domestic violence law; and draft a legal text that would address any form of sexual harassment.
The body’s current projects also include the development of Lebanon’s first National Action Plan to implement U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security. The plan outlines goals of increasing women’s participation in political, public, and economic life and security sectors.
Far from laws and legislations, the NCLW is taking several actions to empower women in Lebanon.
“We prepared an action plan, which included awareness-raising training sessions and workshops, to make sure that more women would run for municipal and parliamentary elections,” Aoun- Roukoz told Annahar.
“We also started conducting a gender assessment and analysis in different ministries, public institutions, and political parties, based on which they will be given recommendations to improve their performance from a gender perspective,” Aoun-Roukoz pointed out, stressing that this long-term sustainable program aims to shed light on the importance of diversity within state institutions.
All this, however, cannot be achieved without the support of different stakeholders.
“We will never cease to advocate for our cause. We will raise our voices and never give up. We will resort to media, campaigning, awareness-raising kind of communication, and most importantly we will not lose hope. It’s a continuous fight,” she said.
On her entrepreneurial achievement
As a career-oriented entrepreneur, Aoun-Roukozin founded Clementine SAL in 2009, a fast-growing communication agency that meets the needs of more than 100 companies and accounts. This success, however, had its ups and downs.
“We passed through times where the company wasn’t doing well,” Aoun-Roukoz told Annahar. “Few were the people who motivated and encouraged me as it was widely believed that women were unable to start and run a business by their own.”
“I found a support system in my father who believed in me when no one else did,” she added.
Aoun-Roukoz managed to overcome all the challenges and difficulties regardless.
Since she is currently fully focused on NCLW, her co-founder and partner is handling most of the work at Clementine, while she only follows up on big projects. Having a male partner, according to her, is a great balance.
“I believe in diversity,” she stressed, “and I think that a conversation, discussion, or dialogue between men and women can lead to optimal outcomes.”
Aoun-Roukoz emphasized that one cannot do everything at once.
“Now that I am fully devoted to my role at the NCLW, I dedicate less time to perform other activities,” she said. “For instance, I delegated some of my duties at the Presidency to competent people so as to free myself for the NCLW’s dossiers.”
“It’s very important to set priorities and have a well-organized calendar.”
In the same context, Aoun-Roukoz highlighted the necessity of saying ‘no.’
“I reject a lot of invitations to be with my family. I force myself to be at home at a certain hour, thus make sure to schedule my appointments before.”
She added: “Weekends and vacations are a scared family time.”
When she is not busy defending the rights of oppressed women, you can sport her reading a book or contributing to the protection and preservation of the environment somehow.
She also works on environmental topics through the Lebanese Presidency and NCLW. Aoun-Roukoz underlined that “women should be involved and have a significant role in this sector as well.”
Full of hope, the only dream she would love to fulfill is at a national level: “I dream of a better, green, clean, and tolerant Lebanon,” Aoun-Roukoz noted, adding that “our country is a beautiful message.”
As for her advice for women:
“Don’t lose hope in your country! Be active, productive, and proactive. Prove yourselves in what you are good at. Improve, evolve, advance in life, and make sure to always spread positivity wherever you are. And I can promise you, from my part, that I will not despair although the challenge is big; I will keep the same dynamism.”
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: [email protected]
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