Women’s rights activists marched to the Serail Thursday with a list of demands for Prime Minister Najib Mikati, and proclaiming: “No spring without women.”
The demonstration took place after the close of the New Arab Woman Forum, a conference which, in its fifth year, focused on women’s role in the Arab Spring, and brought together activists from across the region to discuss the main issues facing women in the Middle East.
Around 100 men and women marched from the Four Seasons hotel, where the two-day conference was held, to the Serail in Downtown Beirut, under the slogan “Sawa sawa,” meaning, “Together, together.”
Nadine Abou Zaki, the executive chair of the NAWF, said that the key message the peaceful protesters wished to spread was that any successful revolution depends on the contribution of women.
“We are saying that revolution cannot be fulfilled without the participation of all members of society. It will remain incomplete if all members of society do not participate,” she said.
“We are here together today, and not tomorrow,” she added.
Nihal Baytam, an MBA student, was attending the march as she feels women are often treated as second-class citizens.
“She [a woman] has to stand by men in everything that she does, and in politics she is sidelined. Women need to take back their rights,” Baytam said.
Baytam, a Palestinian whose mother is Lebanese, said the main issue she takes umbrage with is the lack of equal citizenship rights for women in Lebanon, which means her mother cannot pass her nationality on to her.
Among the men in the march was Cesar Nammour, an art critic from Beirut. “Over the last 20 years, women have won some rights, but there is still a long way to go,” he said.
“Perhaps the most urgent thing that needs to change is the attitude of society toward women. This must gradually change so that women have a chance to be themselves,” Nammour added.
The demands presented to Mikati included the criminalization of domestic violence, the right for women to pass on their nationality, the right to move freely and equal property rights.
By Olivia Alabaster