CRTD.A workshop on women’s economic rights points out to gaps in legislation || 25 September 2013

Thu, 09/26/2013

CRTD.A organised on the 25th of September, a workshop on women’s economic rights at the Bayt el Tabib in Furn el Chebbak.  The workshop was entitled “Toward the mainstreaming of women in labor laws and social protection” and was attended by more than 130 members and workers in rural women cooperatives, activists in women and civil society organisations, trade union representatives, staff of MOSA centres as well as other ministries and other stakeholders from different parts of the country reflecting the wide geographical outreach and decentralization nature of the work of the organization.
The workshop, which was organised within the framework of the Women Economic Empowerment Project implemented by the organization since 2004, started with a brief introduction by CRTD.A director, Lina Abou-Habib, who provided an overview of the background, components and achievements of the WEEP programme over the last three years.  She noted that the programme seeks to empower women economically and to contribute to developing their sustainable livelihoods, whilst emphasizing the structural causes of women’s poor economic participation, especially at the level of the law.  She also outlined the three components of the project notably 1) the research and knowledge component which included the implementation of 29 researches, the construction of the women economic empowerment portal and  implementation of a participatory organizational gender audit with the Ministry of Social Affairs; 2) the field component which included support to women’s economic initiatives as well as provision of training and material input to more than 40 rural women cooperatives and groups located throughout Lebanon; and 3) policy dialogue which included a series of policy consultation meeting in all parts of the country and reaching more than 285 people, distributed as follows: 79 from the public sector, 138 from the civil and local societies, 57 from the trade unions and 11 people from the private sector.  The presentation also provided highlights of the key findings of the researchs and policy consultations notably that women usually reach high education levels but this does not reflect in their participation in the job market.  In the same vein, women tend to concentrate in the care and service sectors.  Their participation in the formal business sector is low, in addition to the fact that they suffer from a number of legal loopholes such as in the provisions of the National Social Security Fund for rural women in cooperatives, home based work, and agriculture workers as well as women’s inability to extend social security to their spouses except in case of disability.
Former Minister of Labour, Charbel Nahhas, followed within the same vein and highlighted the exclusions that characterize the labor law notably the exclusion of women and men working in agriculture, women engaged in household work and those working in family-based institutions.  He warned against the danger of splitting and compartmentalizing rights noting that this will undermine social rights as well as the rights of vulnerable and excluded groups.  Nahhas added that the law to adjust salaries requires governments to review minimum salaries every two years as well as apply the relevant high cost of living adjustment on an annual basis.  He also spoke about the “sponsorship” system governing the employment of foreign domestic workers and which, according to Nahhas, has no legal basis.
Dr. Hind Sufi, representing the National Commission for Lebanese Women provided an overview of the clauses in the labor law that are discriminatory against women and which have been revised namely with regards to the rights of spouses to benefit from their wives’ social security coverage as well as equality in benefiting from family compensation as well as increasing paid maternity leave to become 10 weeks.
Hanna Gharib’s, the Head of Public Secondary School Education Teachers Association, intervention was met with a high level of interest amongst participants given the meaning of the experience of the trade union coordination committee which in fact constitute a sign of hope for achieving workers’ rights.  Gharib emphasized the role of women in organizing the movements of the coordination committee and which consisted of some 22 public demonstrations and marches.  He noted that the coordination committee is now going through its last round for the battle for salaries reform which has been frozen for some 17 years.  He also shed the light on the discrimination affecting civil servants and teachers at a time when judges and university teachers have been given specific privileges.  At the moment, Gharib added, the attention of the committee will focus on the outcome and recommendations of the parliamentary commission which is currently studying the draft law, an outcome that will determine whether the coordination will call for another street action or otherwise.