historical background on Lebanon. In Lebanon, the overall population is close to five millions with females representing 50% of the population while they occupy 25% of the total labor force in the Lebanese labor market (Monthly, 2015). In 1953, Lebanon was the first Arab country to grant women equal rights to participate fully in politics. Despite that, Lebanon has made limited progress in endorsing gender equality, empowering women, and opening the space for women to play their part in achieving development (Avis, 2017). According to the Gender Gap index, Lebanon ranks thirteen among the Middle East and North Africa region and has ranked at 137 globally (WEF, 2017). For example, in the banking industry, females occupy
45.9% of the total occupations as of the year 2013 (Monthly, 2015). Another study by the Lebanese Bankers Association reveals that 19 percent of assistant general managers or general managers of banks are women (Monthly, 2015). While the representation of women in the Lebanese parliament is as low as 3.1% compared to 96.9% for men (WEF, 2017). As of 2004, only two women were ambassadors for Lebanon out of 53 ambassadors, three women out of 22 were government directors general, as low as 139 women out of 8,461 were municipal council members and only 2 women out of 736 were municipal heads (Sha’rani, 2004).
In the education sector in Lebanon, the enrolment of Lebanese women in the secondary education is 64.9% (WEF, 2017). Females and males in primary school are almost equal (89% and 91%, respectively) and in secondary school the ratio for females is 79%, compared to 71% for males (Unicef, 2011). In the teachers union, only one woman out of 12 was board member and in the secondary teacher’s union, two women out of 18 were board members (Sha’rani, 2004). In the Lebanese university, only one dean out of 13 deans was a woman (Sha’rani, 2004). A recent report conducted by the Center for Educational Research and Development in Lebanon illustrates that a percentage of 79.3% of teachers in all educational sectors in Lebanon for the year 2016-2017 are women (CRDP, 2017). When it comes to higher education in Lebanon, around 32% of professors in the Lebanese university are women while in private universities, women professors represent a percentage of 37% (CRDP, 2017).
In 1998, the National Commission for Lebanese Women (NCLW ) was established to protect and look after the rights of women in Lebanon (NCLW, NCLW, 2017). Among the important programs that were initiated by the NCLW are: the “National Strategy for Women in Lebanon (2011-2021)” in 2011 and the “National Action Plan (2013-2016)” in 2013 (NCLW, NCLW, 2017). These programs aim to empower women from different perspectives such as: social, political, economic and legal perspectives (NCLW, NCLW, 2017). Strong partnerships with local, regional and international organizations, has been established and developed with NCLW and those organizations became key influencers in women empowerment in Lebanon (NCLW, NCLW, 2017). In 2008, the Lebanese government reconfirmed an earlier commitment made in the previous government of 2006 that it will put all efforts to strengthen the participation of women in all financial, economic, social, and political areas (USAID, Gender Assessment for USAID/Lebanon, 2012). The government of 2008 also confirmed the plan to implement all signed international conventions, mainly the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEADAW) (USAID, Gender Assessment for USAID/Lebanon, 2012). Another government entity looking after women is the Ministry of Social Affairs (MoSA) under which the women’s unit is responsible for evaluating women’s needs across all sectors (IWSAW, 2016; NCLW, NCLW, 2017; USAID, Gender Assessment for USAID/Lebanon, 2012)