British Ambassador to Lebanon Hugo Shorter has hosted a reception to call on Lebanese political parties, voters and women to increase women’s representation in parliament in the upcoming elections, the British embassy said on Tuesday.
The event was also an opportunity to celebrate “100 years of votes for women in the UK.”
The reception was attended by Minister of State for Women Affairs Jean Oghassabian, more than seventy women, mainly candidates, and men and women from all walks of life.
In a statement, the British embassy in Lebanon noted that it has been working on women’s rights and empowerment for a number of years, including promoting the role of women in politics.
Ambassador Shorter has been amongst the most prominent advocates first for a women’s quota to be included in the new electoral law, and then for parties to promote women’s candidacies on their lists.
During his address at the event, Shorter said: "This is a symbolic year for women in the UK. I hope it will be a symbolic year for women in Lebanon too. 100 years ago this month, women in the UK were granted the vote for the first time. It wasn't total suffrage: only women over 30 who owned property could vote. But it was a milestone moment that started a sea-change: 10 years later, the vote had been extended to all women over the age of 21.”
Shorter added that, nonetheless, the UK is still “on a journey.”
“Nine out of 28 ministers attending our Cabinet are women. 32% of our MPs are women. Not bad, but we could do better. The descendants of those courageous women – and a few men – who campaigned for women’s suffrage, continue their work,” he said.
“Lebanon is on that journey too. It started well: Lebanese women won the vote ahead of many, in 1952. But then something stalled,” the envoy added.
“Votes for Women was the slogan of the past. Today, it's Seats for Women. Women are fighting for their rights. But they also need the people in power -- the men -- to be willing to share that power, to build a better society. Women are succeeding in all walks of life. It is not competence or lack of will that is holding them back,” Shorter said.
He stressed that the time has come for “50% of Lebanon's population” to be represented by “more than 3% of its parliament.”
“The time has come for seats for women. And so I say to political parties, to voters and to women themselves: Yalla!,” Shorter added, using a Lebanese dialect word.
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