Written by: Nadia Annous
Edited by: Anna Mohan
Currently, Lebanon is undergoing an economic crisis, the national debt amounts to 170% of the GDP. As a result of the pandemic, the unemployment rate has risen drastically and is now over 30%, amongst young people, the unemployment rate is over 60%.
In September 2019, protesters took to the streets to demonstrate against nepotism, corruption and the poor living conditions, the pandemic has exacerbated these conditions. Over 1 million Syrian refugees are being hosted in Lebanon, over 70% of whom are living below the poverty line making social distancing and self-isolating an impossible task.
Women in Lebanese societies have always faced sexism and the government has institutionalised this discrimination. Not only women are not allowed to give their nationality to their own children, but the personal status law is governed by a patriarchal religious doctrine which that ensures that women and men are not equals. Lebanon is ranked 140 out of 149 in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap report.
If the law itself does not protect their women, who will?
Only women themselves.
"We want women, in particular, to learn to fight and become part of a new system, instead of just swearing at the government and then leaving the country. This is our chance!" -Hanna Nasser
When the protest first began, a video emerged showing a young woman kicking a security officer. This prompted and sparked the fire in several young women, encouraging them to participate in these protests. Young women who are in school and universities had participated almost every day on the streets fighting for the cause, fighting for their freedom from the government. Over half of the protesters in these demonstrations have been women, although many faced extreme violence from police and armed forces that did not stop them from being heard. In fact, the women worked hard and advocated for a peaceful protest.
“The purpose was for women to take control of how the protests were evolving. They wanted a peaceful protest. So they took to the front lines to stop the violence” -Dayna Ash
There was a unified aim, they wanted to fight for change while also keeping the protests as peaceful as possible. This became known as the women’s front line, the impact of this line was phenomenal. It drastically reduced the rates of violence and clashes. More and more people felt comfortable and safe showing up, and the protests proliferated. This became the largest protest in Lebanon in over a decade.