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Equality between women and men is a fundamental right, a basic value of the European Union and a key principle in its external action. Equal representation of women and men in public life is a necessity for an effective democracy, and the advancement of women's rights is a central issue to achieve political, economic and social justice. In Lebanon, women are still under represented politically and at high level civil service positions.
On the occasion of International Women's Day, EU Ambassador Christina Lassen said: "Lebanon was among the first countries in the Middle East to allow women to vote, already back in 1953. But today more than 60 years later there are only 4 female Members of Parliament out of 128. We believe that women in leadership positions and in politics is absolutely crucial." "It is important and it is a right for women to be where decisions about their lives are made. We believe that the society cannot flourish if half the country's population is not represented. So we say, Lebanese you have a chance this year, go to the elections in May and vote for a woman candidate!" she added.
The EU provides support to Lebanese women candidates and voters. More than 500 participants from all over Lebanon were involved in awareness sessions that were conducted ahead of the parliamentary elections in the framework of the EU-funded "Lebanese Electoral Assistance Project" (LEAP). The sessions reached out to women candidates and voters in general, and resulted in identifying women across Lebanon who are willing to run for elections, thus encouraging women's candidacy as well as women and men to vote for female candidates. The sessions also provided potential candidates with technical support and networking tactics.
LEAP is complemented by another EU-funded project: DAWRIC (Direct Action for Women: Reform, Inclusion and Confidence) that aims at promoting gender equality in Lebanon in the political and decision making realms at both local and national levels. Following a series of consultations and training sessions with women organisations across Lebanon, political participation was identified as a main priority for 2018. As such, a campaign will be launched on 21 March to highlight the importance of women's political participation as a step forward towards achieving gender equality in Lebanon.
The European Union will continue to provide support to civil society organisations and women's groups in Lebanon, as it does across the world, through concrete actions aiming at promoting the political, economic and social role of Lebanese women.