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Women and municipal engagement: A study by the Lebanese Family Planning Association in collaboration with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation


Ugarite Helou, a political scientist from the Lebanese University, and Statistician Marwan Houri, presented yesterday the results of a field study they implement to assess the experience of women who engaged in municipal work.  The study was carried out by the Lebanese Family Planning Association in collaboration with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and covered 224 women (out of a total of some 500 women) who won in the 2009 municipal elections and belonging to different regions, confessions and socio-economic categories.

According to the results, 90% of the interviewees indicated that the reason for presenting themselves was to serve their localities while 42.40% indicated that they wished to protect their religious communities. The support of family and spouse was critical for 90% of the interviewees whereas 12% of candidates with children indicated that they were faced by the objection of their in-laws against 8.3% of candidates who have no children.  Furthermore, 6.3% noted that they faced resistance by political parties most of whom were married with children. Moreover, only 3.5% of women candidates indicated that they received support from civil society organisations and only 1.6% indicated that they received support from other women.

The study also noted that factors that have facilitated women’s municipal engagement include their social networks (94% of informants).  However, the study did not explain what is meant by social networks and whether this referred to political or confessional allegiance or any other.  Some 84.80% of women indicated that they did not face major financial challenges.  The study however did not clarify the socio-economic profile of informants and the correlation between their economic independence and their ability to run for municipal elections.  Most informants (958%) indicated that the dominant patriarchal culture did not constitute an obstacle toward their engagement.  They also noted that the control of the municipal president, absence of democratic practices as well as the poor representation of women and the trend of not taking women seriously did not constitute any major obstacle or hindered their participation within the municipal council although the awareness of such factors was higher amongst the younger and more educated category of informants.
The limitations of the study were also underlined as the researchers indicated the need for further qualitative data through interviews and focus groups.  The researchers also concluded that women tend to reproduce the culture they try to challenge.

Source: Al-Safir 21 June 2013

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