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Mount Lebanon’s Women Engagement and Participation in the Political, Economic, and Social life in History till Today
Posted on Mar 24, 2021 |
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Looking back at the history of women’s role in Mount Lebanon

Ever since the Mutassarifiya of Mount Lebanon was declared in 1861, the history of this region has shifted and changed. Mount Lebanon transitioned from primarily agricultural-based villages to an industrial region harboring 58% of the total number of Lebanese industrial firms, the highest concentration in Lebanon by the year 2016
the Author
Lead Gender Integration Specialist at the Arab Institute for Women
Mount Lebanon’s Women Engagement and Participation in the Political, Economic, and Social life in History till Today
©Adra Kandil

Looking back at the history of women’s role in Mount Lebanon

Ever since the Mutassarifiya of Mount Lebanon was declared in 1861, the history of this region has shifted and changed. Mount Lebanon transitioned from primarily agricultural-based villages to an industrial region harboring 58% of the total number of Lebanese industrial firms, the highest concentration in Lebanon by the year 2016[1].

Historically, women in Mount Lebanon have been the support on all levels to families and communities, and were tasked to do extremely hard labor. This includes supporting the household by making informal income from agricultural work, sewing, taking care of the sheep and silkworms as well as taking care of the babies, cleaning the house, preparing food, and taking care of the husbands, all while willingly accepting the patriarchal decisions that came their way from the men in their lives.[2] These tasks changed over the course of the years, as changes occurred across agricultural communities to cities and industries.

The history of Mount Lebanon, from the autonomous status of the Mutassarifya and after the Greater Lebanon was declared in 1920, was riddled with wars, and has had its fair share of conflict and destruction. During the war, women played a peacebuilding and peacekeeping role, specifically on local levels. In addition, they were in charge of everything related to taking care of the house and families while the men were busy fighting the wars. Even though women have always been active in societies and communities, during the 19th and 20th centuries, women were not given a voice neither in their families nor their communities, they were only expected to follow orders of male dominated communities. During the war, women were cast aside when actual peace negotiations took place, men fought the war, and men ended it.

One of the only fields in which women and girls were able to find some kind of equality is education. Studies have shown that Lebanese women had an easy access to education. Numbers show that since the Mutassarifiya and until today, the number of girls enrolled in education almost matches that of boys. This education has not, however, enabled them to reach decision-making positions[3].

Currently, women constitute only around 25% of the labor force, with the majority of women workers concentrated in Beirut and Mount Lebanon. Nevertheless, women still suffer from the gender pay gap and lower professional status. “Women thus represent a significant labor power but their access to positions linked to decision-marking and implementation, as, more generally, to stable employment, remains uneasy[4]” Marie Bonte mentions in her analysis, “A gender and ethnic division of labor”.

Women, in Mount Lebanon and in the whole country have been the drive of social work, civil work, and community support. The majority of organizations that aim to provide services and social support are led and operated by women. But as usual, we do not see women breaking the glass ceiling and reaching decision-making positions.

A noteworthy fact is that Bourj Hammoud, a city in the middle of Mount Lebanon, was the first municipality to hire women police officers, because women’s inclusion in the police force has more “effective community relations as a foundation for long term growth and peace”[5].

During the last municipal elections, we saw an increase in women candidates, defying the conservative ideas of their families and communities. Mount Lebanon Governorate held the second highest number of women running for municipal seats[6] (528 women) and the highest number for Mukhtar seats (156 women). The highest number of elected women for both municipal seats and Mukhtar are in Mount Lebanon (246 seats belonging to women in municipalities and 17 Mukhtar seats). These numbers show a 15% rise from the 2010 election results in local representation.

As for the last parliamentary elections that took place in 2018, a record number of 113 women submitted their candidacy for the elections.[7] After the deadline set within the context of the new electoral law, which required all candidates to take part in lists, 86 women candidates remained in the electoral race. The highest number of women candidates was at the Governorate of Mount Lebanon, set at 27 women candidates running for the parliamentary elections[8]. This record number was followed by a disappointing outcome of only 6 women winning the elections none of them from Mount Lebanon.

When examining all the above-mentioned facts, women have shown since the dawn of history that they are the pillars of societal sustainability, they have been the backstage crew for all events throughout the history of Mount Lebanon. The presence of women most of the time provides higher guarantees for democracy and almost always takes into consideration a human-rights perspective in all social, economic, and political causes. It is time we give women the long overdue credit for all the work they have been doing and give them space to put their fingerprints on all matters for the purpose of improving the society we all live in.



[2] The role of women in 19th century Mount Lebanon: http://www.alraidajournal.com/index.php/ALRJ/article/view/1141/1134

[4] A gender and ethnic division of labor: https://books.openedition.org/ifpo/13250?lang=en

[5] Women in the Municipal Police Service in Lebanon Representation and Participation: https://procurement-notices.undp.org/view_file.cfm?doc_id=165684

[6] The highest number of women candidates running for municipal seats is in the North Lebanon and Akkar (535 women) with a slight difference of 7 candidates from Mount Lebanon.

[7] Record number of women on the ballot in Lebanon’s first parliamentary elections since 2009: https://reliefweb.int/report/lebanon/record-number-women-ballot-lebanon-s-first-parliamentary-elections-2009

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