BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Aoun celebrated female army soldiers and officers on International Women’s Day as a delegation visited him at the Baabda Palace.
“I can see the fruits of the efforts made to integrate women into this military institution; something that was impossible in the past,” Aoun said.
He added: “The number of women in the army is steadily increasing in a patriarchal society that was not ready to believe women can succeed in a field previously reserved for men.”
Aoun called for further efforts to make sure women enjoy the same rights as men. “Today, women practice various functions in society; they are doctors, scientists, judges and so on. But they are yet to attain their full rights in one field: Politics, and having equal representation in Parliament. We strive to achieve this.”
The commander of the Presidential Guard Brigade, Brig. Gen. Bassam Al-Helou, who accompanied the delegation, said: “These female soldiers are the elite members of the Lebanese Army, and they work in all departments of the Presidential Guard Brigade and the Presidency’s Directorate-General.”
Lebanon’s sixth official periodic report was presented before the UNHCR follow-up committee in February to discuss the extent to which the country has implemented the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
It revealed notable progress in integrating women into institutions, especially in the military. A Gender Department was also established for the first time in the army.
The report read: “A remarkable increase in women’s enrolment in army ranks was recorded over the past year. In 2022, 51 female officers out of 110 cadets will graduate from the Military College, and their number will increase to 55 out of 108 cadets in 2023, a number of whom will join the naval and air forces.”
Minister of State for Administrative Reform Najla Riachi said on Tuesday: “Despite the positive breakthroughs women have achieved in assuming leadership positions in the political arena, progress in this field is still limited. Serious consideration must be given to the reasons that still, unfortunately, impede the achievement of complete equality between women and men.”
Riachi added: “We must overcome such obstacles, in compliance with the preamble of the constitution, which stipulates that all citizens are equal in rights and duties without discrimination. This is crucial if we are to meet the fifth goal of the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030, which Lebanon pledged to implement.”
International Women’s Day in Lebanon was overshadowed by growing crises over food security, and medicine and fuel shortages. Still, Lebanese officials, including Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi and Environment Minister Nasser Yassin celebrated Lebanese women on Tuesday.
National Commission for Lebanese Women head Claudine Aoun said: “With the support of civil society institutions and international organizations, the commission is following up on the government’s implementation of a national action plan we had drawn up, despite the difficulties it faces at the financial, health and supply levels.”
Meanwhile, the National Federation of Employees’ and Workers’ Unions was explicit in pinpointing the obstacles still facing Lebanese women in light of the economic crisis.
It warned that Lebanese women are subjected to the “worst forms of exploitation” as a result of the crisis and financial collapse, and that the state and ministries were failing to provide women with any support or social security.
“Today, some Lebanese women work more and get paid less, while others have been pushed into unemployment.”