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Frances GuyAmbassador to the Republic of Lebanon, Beirut
What to do for international women's day? As a female ambassador I feel that I should be making an effort to help encourage Lebanese women to take on more of a political role. But how best to do that without treading on sensitive toes? 2 years ago I held a lunch to try and get some prominent women to think about the alternative report on CEDAW (Convention to End Discrimination Against Women). It didn't really work. This year I tried a different tack, get together a wider mix of women of different ages all pushing the barriers in their own way and try and find one or two real action points for the next 12 months. As a diplomat my real aim though was to bring together some women who might not know each other and who could maybe benefit from each others ideas. We had a lively discussion. The very few women who are already elected on municipalities (we had two mayors present) shared some of their experiences.
Perhaps the most inspiring was a woman in the Internal Security Forces (police). There are only 2 Lebanese women in the whole police force. Her point was quite simply that there was no legal barrier to any woman joining any aspect of the security forces and that more women in the police and army could help deal more sensitively with issues like domestic violence. But could also send a very positive message about women in society. Here! Here! When I came here from Yemen, it was one of the more surprising aspects of Lebanon. The lack of women in the police. In Yemen there are women policemen, directing traffic, doing patrols and women noticeably in the army. Here - there are so few you can't see them. I understand that in part this is a legacy of the civil war where women played a vital part in keeping society going but could do that because they were not implicated in the fighting. But times have moved on. I would dare to say that a sign of Lebanon becoming a modern sovereign state would be women participating in the security forces.