كلمة النائب سامي الجميّل في 11 شباط 2015 في مقر الأمم المتحدة في نيويورك حول دور البرلمانيين في تعزيز حقوق المرأة في الصحة والاقتصاد والتنمية
Speech of Samy Gemayel,
Member of Parliament, Lebanon
World Women’s Health and Development Forum
11-12 February 2015
UN Headquarters, New York
Mr. Secretary General,
Excellencies, distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am honored and happy to be here with you. I thank the organizers for giving me a voice in this promising forum.
I stand in front of you today while my country and the region are witnessing a vicious attack on fundamental freedoms and rights.
This part of the world is threatened by extremism and terrorist acts as well as a growing refugee crisis.
In the middle of this explosive situation, women rights might be perceived as a secondary issue.
However, countering extremism starts with standing against radical beliefs, and genuinely promoting the values of freedom, moderation, diversity and equality.
Hence, empowering women and promoting their rights is more critical than ever;
Giving women the necessary resources and education in fields of health, development, economy, science, law and politics helps keep oppressive ideologies at bay.
Furthermore, freeing women from the obstacles hindering their advancement reinforces the bases of democracy and equality in our societies and prevents them from escalating towards further discriminative and extremist practices.
A remarkable progress in advancing women rights has been made since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, 20 years ago.
Nevertheless, the shift from de jure to de facto equality has been slow at times and inefficient at others.
Different studies and reports have shown that various challenges such as patriarchal order, religious norms, chauvinism, poverty and cultural particularities are still flagged as impediments or obstacles to women’s health and development.
For instance, the use of contraceptives is still opposed by religious leaders although it proved to be an efficient tool for saving the lives of women and men, preventing sexually transmitted diseases and curbing unsafe abortions.
Similarly, cultural practices have been used as an excuse for not allowing women to open a bank account or have their own businesses without the consent of their husbands or fathers.
We should also not forget that society’s expectations about gender roles are still discouraging many young ladies to apply for jobs in science and technology.
They are also pushing mid-career women to quit their jobs, seeking work-life balance.
Notwithstanding the weight of these challenges, parliamentarians can play a crucial role in leveling gender inequality and advancing the health, wealth and development of women.
First, parliamentarians can submit or vote on gender-sensitive laws and policies that enable the free exercise of women rights in various fields, including health policies and sexual and reproductive rights.
Indeed as a Lebanese parliamentarian, I was engaged in the drafting and enactment of a number of laws including topics related to honor crimes, domestic violence, raising maternity leave and providing free textbooks for girls and boys in public schools.
Second, through legislation, parliamentarians are also able to improve employment and social protection such as parental leave, medical coverage, equal salary and access to microcredits.
They can also repeal legal barriers to property rights, opening of bank accounts and establishing businesses, among other;
Third, parliamentarians must hold the government accountable for the implementation of gender equality programs and gender-sensitive policies in line with relevant international instruments. They can also call on the relevant ministries to create awards celebrating the achievements of leading women in health, science and economy.
Outside the sphere of parliament, lawmakers can and should play an equally important role in informing and influencing the constituencies they represent by addressing cultural and social stereotypes.
This could be accomplished through regular encounters and collaboration with civil society, lobby groups, the private sector, media and voters, to raise awareness about conscious and unconscious discrimination.
Both male and female parliamentarians should endeavor to improve women’s health, wealth and development.
This is not an exclusive women concern.
This is not a women rights issue on its own.
This is a human rights issue where all of us have a collective and global responsibility to act, if we are truthful to the universal rights and freedoms we dearly uphold.
Nonetheless, lobbying and acting for the adoption of gender quotas to boost the participation and inclusion of women in the political, economic and social spectrums remain the most important calling of a lawmaker.
Because no matter how big the efforts of a male lawmaker are, he will not be able to articulate the interests and needs of women, as a woman would do, especially when it comes to her rights, health and economic interests.
To conclude, working on correcting the injustices affecting women in health and development can be frustrating, if not upsetting.
UN bodies can make this task easier by urging governments to take action in this regard.
However, we should not forget that we, parliamentarians, have a responsibility to act on behalf of our constituencies. Not half of them but all of them! Thank you.