Lebanese women ministers eager to face challenges
By Nohad Topalian in Beirut
Lebanese women ministers appointed to the new government are prepared to meet the challenges entrusted to them, two of them told Al-Mashareq.
After an eight-month deadlock over political wrangling, Lebanese Prime Minister designate Saad al-Hariri on January 31st announced a government line up, with four women taking office in key positions.
Raya al-Hasan, a former finance minister, will head the interior ministry, and has made history as the first female interior minister in Lebanon and the Arab world.
May Chidiac, a former journalist, was named minister of state for administrative development; Nada Boustani of the Free Patriotic Movement has become minister of energy and water; and Violette Khairallah Safadi, was appointed to the Social and Economic Rehabilitation of Youth and Women ministry of state.
Women ministers gain key cabinets
"While it is important that we as women have a presence in the government, the significance lies in the portfolios entrusted to us," Chidiac told Al-Mashareq.
This is the first time a woman has been appointed as interior minister in Lebanon, she said, and the first time a woman has headed the Ministry of Energy and Water, as these two positions "were traditionally occupied by men".
Regarding her post as minister of state for administrative development, Chidiac said she will engage with "all ministries, especially with regard to appointments and transparency".
"We were appointed based on each of our eminent academic and professional body of work, to serve Lebanon," she said, with challenges "mostly centered on rescuing the economy and fulfilling the outcomes of the CEDRE conference".
Empowering women, youth
Safadi, the new minister of state for social and economic rehabilitation of youth and women, said she is seeking to change the ministry’s name to the Ministry of State for Social and Economic Empowerment of Women and Youth.
"It is very important that there are four dynamic women in the government," she told Al-Mashareq.
Safadi said her priority is to empower women and youth.
"We will conduct a study of the labour market to ascertain what is lacking and needed, and then train and integrate the youth into it," she said.
The ministry will work to ensure that youth are trained to meet the needs of the labour market, in order to put an end to emigration and unemployment, she said, and to make young people want to stay in their homeland.
"I will develop a programme to empower women economically so that they can support their families, become active members of their communities, and become economically independent," Safadi said.
A precedent in Lebanon
In a social media post, Ghada Chreim Ata, a social activist and French literature professor at the Lebanese University, said it is significant that "four women from different fields were named to top ministerial posts".
The appointment of a woman to head the Ministry of Interior was "the biggest surprise", Ata told Al-Mashareq. "It is unprecedented in the history of Arab countries, and the credit for it goes to Prime Minister al-Hariri."
All the ministries to which women were appointed are of key importance, as the Energy and Water Minister will tackle the problem of electricity that has vexed Lebanon for decades, she said.
Lebanon also is in dire need of administrative development and the implementation of the e-government programme that is aimed at modernising public administration, she added.
Meanwhile, the women and youth minister of state faces several pressing issues, she said.
These include the right of Lebanese women to pass citizenship on to their children and spouses, and the implementation of a quota system in the parliamentary elections.