NAYA| New record for women in Lebanese cabinet; still a long way to go

The increase in the number of female ministers is, of course, not the sole achievement of the new government but, the relevant ministries they have been appointed to is of major significance.
by Christina Farhat

6 February 2019 | 16:32

Source: by Annahar

  • by Christina Farhat
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 6 February 2019 | 16:32

Raya Al Hassan, appointed head of the powerful Interior Ministry. (H/O)

BEIRUT: Following a nine-month government hiatus, political leaders successfully appointed a new government comprised of thirty ministers of whom four are women.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri took to Twitter to express his pride.

“Proud of Lebanese women, proud of the four female ministers in the government, proud of the first woman Interior Minister in the Arab world, proud of the future, proud of Lebanon,” PM Hariri posted to Twitter on Friday.

The increase in the number of female ministers is, of course, not the sole achievement of the new government but, the relevant ministries they have been appointed to is of major significance.

Rayya Haffar El Hassan made history as the first female Interior and Municipalities Minister in the Arab region. She previously broke gender stereotypes as the first female Minister of Finance.

“Rayya is a glass ceiling breaker!” Abir Chebaro, Advisor to PM Saad Hariri for women’s affairs, told Annahar. “She is dismantling patriarchal norms and stereotypes. Her appointment reflects the perfect incarnation of meritocracy.”

Nada Boustani has been appointed to the Ministry of Energy and Water and will serve as a key player in the economic trajectory of the country.

“Nada Boustani is one of the promising choices of this government,” Alain Aoun told Annahar. “That being said, she carries a big responsibility and faces great challenges in bringing consistent electricity while her predecessors, despite their best efforts, failed.”


Violette Khairallah Safadi was appointed Minister of Social and Economic Empowerment of Women and Youth.

“Violette Safadi holds a very important and relevant portfolio because it is related to all aspects of women’s empowerment,” Chebaro said. “Women’s empowerment is a cycle and economic empowerment is the driving wheel. It has a multiplier effect on society as a whole and not only women. When women work, the GDP increases.”


In addition, May Chidiac was appointed State Minister for Administrative Development.

“May Chidiac embodies and represents empowerment,” Charles Jabbour, Head of Communication in the Lebanese Forces said “she is also highly qualified for her new position as Minster.”


Moving Forward

Although this is a step forward for women representation in the Lebanese government, 13 percent is not enough to represent more than half the population.

Lebanon indeed has a long way to go.

According to UN Women, internationally only 18.3 percent of government ministers were women. The most commonly held portfolio by women ministers is environment, natural resources, and energy. Those were followed by social sectors, such as social affairs, education, and the family.

Why isn’t there more women representation in government?

Carmen Geha, Ph.D., Professor of Public Administration at AUB, and women’s rights activist, explained to Annahar why there is a lack of female representation in government.

“The trend of the Lebanese woman as incapable in politics and the labor market is not accurate. The problem lies more in structural obstacles,” Geha told Annahar.

“Appointing four female ministers shows that when there is a will, there is a way. This means that we are able to identify qualified women who are capable of handling key political and policy positions,” Geha added.

The problem with women representation in government is due to a plethora of obstacles.

“The real problem is lack of investment, bad infrastructure, sexual harassment in the workplace, and stereotyping amongst other reasons,” the Public Administration specialist said as she explained why women don’t enter a particular workforce. “It is not because of lack of qualification.”

With a spotlight shining on the newly appointed female Ministers, it is difficult to predict how they will be assessed by the public.

“It is possible that the appointed women will be judged on the first mistake they make. It is also possible that they will experience scrutiny over things such as their personal life ending up in the media,” Geha said.

That being said, Geha remained cautiously optimistic.

“Maybe society will surprise us. It might be interesting to see this reverse party politics; it might play out the opposite way from what we would expect in the favor of the new female Ministers,” Geha told Annahar.

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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.farhat17@gmail.com

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