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Arab women’s political participation is largely tokenistic

10-8-2017

In its issue of today, Al Hayat newspaper addressed the issue of women’s participation in political life in Lebanon which is not very different from the situation of women in the Arab region, according to the first annual report published by the Forum of Women in Politics. Arab women face many challenges brought about by patriarchal political regimes and male chauvinist cultural mindsets demurring women’s representation in decision making, as well as in executive, legislative and managerial positions. On the subject, Al Hayat spoke to Forum member and head of the Tunisian Association of the Democratic Women (ATFD), Ahlam Balhaj, who maintained that women’s marginalization even after entering the political arena remains a major hindrance preventing them from practicing a leading role in the decision making process. And despite an enhanced level of political representation of Arab women in certain countries, their presence remains to a large extent limited to social affairs, women and children related posts, Balhaj explained. It is more like a decorative rather than a real policymaking role. The appointment of women in some political posts, she stressed, is often aimed at polishing the image of political parties as alleged promoters and supporters of women in leadership. For her part, Amal Cherif, who ran on Beirut Madinati municipal electoral list, pointed out that women’s political participation is more or less a formality, noting that many prominent parties in the country have nominated one or more females, not out of faith in their capacities, but rather for attracting supportive public opinion. (AL Hayat, August 10, 2017)

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