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Lebanese Mothers: Missing Their Babies

Lebanon currently has one of the shortest maternity leave periods in the world, offering only 49 days off work for new mothers. (Photo: Marwan Bu Haidar)

By: Chloe Benoist

Published Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A draft law addressing maternity leave is set to be presented in the upcoming fall Parliamentary session, aiming to lengthen time off work for new mothers. However, mothers, doctors and activists are saying it’s still not enough.

Lebanon currently has one of the shortest maternity leave periods in the world, offering only 49 days off work for new mothers. This embarrassing record is beaten only by Bahrain and the UAE, who both allow 45 days of recuperation after childbirth. A current draft law to increase the maternity leave to ten weeks is set to be presented in front of the Parliament in the upcoming months. However, it still falls short of the minimum 14 weeks recommended by the International Labor Organization.

The proposal, presented by MPs Gilberte Zwein of the Free Patriotic Movement and Michel Moussa of the Amal Movement Parliamentary Bloc, has already been approved by the Women and Children Committee, the Public Health, Labor and Social Affairs Committee and the Justice and Administration Commission. The proposal was also given the green light by Prime Minister Najib Mikati in April. For Moussa, the draft law represents “an acceptable step forward for both mothers and employers.”

But what might seem an acceptable compromise for politicians is far from sufficient for those directly affected by the law. For Jinane Khashouf, a 31-year-old human resources consultant and creator of a blog entitled Lebanese Working Moms, it was a struggle to conciliate work with the responsibility of caring for a newborn.

 

 

Khashouf said she was “lucky” that her now five-year old daughter was born in the summer while she was working as a teacher, hence giving her two and a half months off. However, she only had the seven-week long maternity leave after the birth of her son two years ago.

“It was not enough,” she said. “You want to go back to your daily life, but you are not ready: you are still breastfeeding, the baby is awake most of the time, but the show must go on.” Khashouf added that if it hadn’t been for her mother being able to take care of her youngest child while she was in the office, she would simply have chosen not to have a second child.

The pressure of balancing a career with motherhood is heightened by the fear of many women that they will be replaced at work, and this despite the existing law which prohibits the firing or women who are pregnant or on maternity leaves. “The law might say many things, but it is not always respected,” Khashouf said, noting that she knows of several women who were unlawfully dismissed from their jobs during or right after their pregnancy.

While hailing the draft proposal as progress, obstetrician Souha Nasreddine emphasized the need to aim higher, citing the negative health concerns a short maternity leave might entail.

“Having time off work to care for your newborn is not a benefit, it’s a need,” she stressed. She recommended a minimum of three months off, while noting that it is highly preferable for mothers to breastfeed until the age of six months. Unfortunately, working hours and a persistent taboo concerning breast pumps at work has meant that many mothers have had to stop breastfeeding their children much earlier than they would have liked.

 

 

According to Nasreddine, forcing mothers to get back to work so quickly also has a psychological effect on the newborn child. “The bonding during the first six months of a baby’s life is important for personality building,” she said, estimating that children separated too early from their mothers have a tendency to be more agitated, anxious and insecure.

The slow pace of reform also has some activists worried that Lebanon will continue to lag behind on international rights standards for decades. The former president of the League for Lebanese Women’s Rights, Linda Matar, recalled the last time the maternity leave law was updated twelve years ago, when private sector employees were granted nine extra days, finally on par with their public sector counterparts’ 49 days off. “It made no sense,” Matar said, referring to the old status quo. “Childbirth is the same, regardless of your place of employment.”

Additionally, while employers could previously legally fire women before their fifth month of pregnancy, women have been fully protected from termination of employment during the entire duration of their pregnancy and subsequent time off since 2000 – at least, according to the law.

Although they recognize the limitations of the current draft law, those who contributed to it highlighted the fact that this proposal represents the best possible outcome of negotiations between the feminist movement and economic actors. Rita Chemaly, a blogger and activist who also works at the National Commission for Lebanese Women, noted that while the commission initially hoped for a 12-week maternity leave, there was resistance from employers against extending the leave so dramatically.

 

 

However, Chemaly said she was hopeful. “I feel pretty confident that this law will pass,” she said. “This is not a polarizing subject. It transcends communitarianism and will benefit all women.” The fact that the proposal has already been approved by three parliamentary commissions strengthened her belief.

While Moussa shared Chemaly’s optimism about the proposal’s potential to pass, he did have a word of caution. “There is a chance that the current political tensions could negatively affect the outcome of the vote,” he noted. “We will have to see how the discussions go.”

For Matar, the relegation of this law to the backburner wouldn’t be anything new. She has been advocating for around sixty years trying to improve conditions for women in the country, and said that time and time again, progress is stifled by political paralysis.

“We are always told ‘now is not the time,’ whether we are at peace or at war,” she said. “Well, if not now, when? Women’s issues are always forgotten because they are not supported by the government.”

But more importantly than legal change, many agreed that Lebanon needs a drastic change in mentality regarding its perception of working mothers. For many women, being a stay-at-home mom is no longer an option the way it was a generation or two ago.

 

 

“Many women work because they have to work – otherwise they would simply switch to part-time jobs,” Khashouf said. “Quitting your job also means losing a huge part of your identity. We need to find options that work for everyone.”

Zeina Ibrahim, an office manager, agreed. “Working mothers have a lot of pressure in our society,” she said. “There is that expectation that you should give up your job, and that you are a bad mother if you don’t.”

Ibrahim changed jobs after giving birth to her son because of the long hours at her previous place of work, which made it impossible for her to be there for her child. Yet, she never considered giving up working altogether, knowing it would be very hard to find work again.

Another factor often cited as making life more difficult for working mothers is the lack of involvement of fathers in day-to-day childcare. For Chemaly, a paternity leave would be a great step for families to bond, “but there must be a change of mentality. People need to stop thinking it is a shame for a man to change a diaper before we can even think of passing a law.”

Nasreddine summarized the imperative to keep aiming higher and not relegate mothers’ rights as “simply” a women’s issue: “Working mothers need real support, and it’s not only for them, it’s for the whole society. Everybody needs to remember that they are not doing this simply for their own benefit; they are raising the country’s next generation.”

soruce: http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/lebanese-mothers-missing-their-babies

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here is the link to the new video of Chayef Halak….

a class of lebanese students try to define an ethiopian with a srilankan…. a house maid,

an egyptian is the worker at the gas station….

the sudanese is the concierge…

the arab guld guy, is the rich guy….

and to the question… what is a lebanese the class stop laughing and went silent…..

a video showing the perversion created by stereotypes in Lebanon….

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rv8aHGvhlvA

“We would like to thank all the young men and women who took part in this film. Please bear in mind that the answers given by them do not represent in any way their personal opinions, but reflect the general viewpoint of the Lebanese society.”

Rita Chemaly

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نساء يطالبن بـ«توضيح الأسس المرجعية» للجنسيّة: قصـص أمّهـات وأسـر تعيـش غريبـة في وطنها / سعدى علوه
ترك الموسيقي الأميركي توماس هورنيغ حصة التدريس في إحدى الجامعات اللبنانية، اعتذر من طلابه، ومضى يلتحق بالنساء اللواتي اعتصمن أمس، أمام السرايا الحكومية، للمطالبة بإعادة حق المرأة اللبنانية بمنح جنسيتها لأسرتها. استغل توماس مشاركة مستشار رئيس مجلس الوزراء، خلدون الشريف، النساء اعتصامهن، وراح يحدثه عن حقه وحق ابنته بنيل جنسية زوجته اللبنانية، التي هي للمناسبة أستاذة جامعية أيضاً. قال توماس إن ابنته التي تبلغ 11 عاماً من العمر، ولدت في لبنان، وتجيد اللغة العربية بامتياز، والفرنسية والإنكليزية، والأهم أنها تسأله دائماً لماذا لا يمكنها أن تكون لبنانية، مثل أمها؟ يشارك توماس في الاعتصام لا من اجل حق ابنته بالحصول على جنسية والدتها فحسب، بل من اجل حق زوجته بمنحه الجنسية شخصياً. قررت زوجة توماس أن تعود لممارسة مهنة التعليم في إحدى الجامعات اللبنانية في العام 1995. يومها، «لم يكن العيش في لبنان قراراً سهلاًُ»، يقول. مع ذلك، شاركها التحدي وعادا «في الوقت الذي كان فيه كثر من اللبنانيين يغادرونه»، وعزف موسيقاه في الحفل الفني الأول الذي هدف إلى الإعلان عن عودة الحياة إلى قلب بيروت. ومن بيروت إلى قلعة الشقيف، حمل توماس آلته الموسيقية ورافق الفنانة جوليا بطرس ليحتفل بتحرير قلب الوطن. ومن الشقيف إلى الكويت رافق الفنان شربل روحانا لإحياء حفل خيري يعود ريعه لمصلحة لبنان. على الرغم من ذلك، لا يحق لزوجته أن تمنحه الجنسية «عليّ أن أعيش دائماً مع ابنتي كأسرة غريبة في لبنان»، يقول بحسرة. وأثارت مطالبة توماس بحق زوجته بمنح الجنسية لأسرتها استغراب بعض اللبنانيين المعتصمين: «أميركي وعم يطالب بالجنسية اللبنانية!»، قال البعض، فيما اقترح آخرون مبادلته جواز السفر «عم نموت حتى نهاجر ويصير معنا باسبور أجنبي، شو بدو بالجنسية اللبنانية». في القرب من «الأميركي»، وقفت مي جلول، أم لأربعة ابناء توزعوا في دول غربية بعدما اكتسبوا الجنسيات الأميركية والأوروبية. تريد جلول الإعتراف بحقها بمنح جنسيتها لأولادها مثل أي «حق بديهي وقانوني غير قابل للمناقشة او التنازل». ربّت جلول أبناءها وحيدة بعدما توفي زوجها وكان طبيباً فلسطينياً، إلى أن تخصصوا في الطب والهندسة ومهن «مشرّفة أخرى»، قالت. ومع ذلك «يحجب عنهم وطني جنسيتي وكأنني لست لبنانية، وكأن دمي ليس لبنانياً بسبب التمييز السلبي ضد المرأة عندنا». أمس، لبت نساء لبنانيات متزوجات بأجانب دعوة «حملة جنسيتي حق لي ولأسرتي» للاعتصام أمام السرايا الحكومية، تزامناً مع انعقاد جلسة مجلس الوزراء، «لعل المجتمعين يروننا ويسعون صوتنا ويتذكرون حقنا»، قلن. وتجمّعن من حول مستشار الرئيس ميقاتي خلدون الشريف وهو يحدثهن عن تأييد «دولته لحقهن بمنح الجنسية لأولادهن من دون تمييز، وبسعيه الشخصي للاعتراف الرسمي بهذا الحق». ولأن «الرئيس لا يختصر مجلسي الوزراء والنواب»، كما قال، نصح الشريف النساء اللبنانيات، وليس المتزوجات من أجانب فحسب، بالضغط على هؤلاء فرداً فرداً لمواجهة «المحاذير الطائفية والمذهبية التي تواجه تعديل القانون». أجوبة لم تقنع المعتصمات اللواتي جئن يسألن عن الهدف من إحالة تعديل القانون إلى لجنة وزارية، وصفوها بـ«مقبرة القوانين». وأمس، عبر رواية كل منهن معاناة اسرتها مع العيش غرباء في لبنان، حاولت بعض نساء لبنان أن «يترجمن» للمسؤولين في الدولة، ومن ضمنهم حكومتها بكامل أعضائها، معنى سياستهم التمييزية ضد المرأة، وانعكاسها على أوضاع أسرهن. كانت كل واحدة منهن تقف ووجهها إلى السرايا، لتبدأ، وبأعلى صوتها، رواية تفاصيل من حياة صغيرة يحولها حرمانها من حقها بمنح الجنسية لأسرتها إلى معاناة كبيرة. وأمس طالبت حملة «جنسيتي حق لي ولأسرتي» باسمهن «الإسراع في العمل على صوغ قانون جديد، على الرغم من وجود مشاريع قانونية كثيرة «كافية ووافية» وبصيغ متعددة. وطالبت اللجنة الوزارية الخاصة بدراسة مشروع القانون، ومعها مجلس الوزراء، بـ«توضيح الأسس المرجعية والمبادئ التي ستستند إليها في عملها، وبفصل الموضوع عن أي قضايا أخرى متعلقة بتعديل قانون الجنسية برمته». وأعادت الحملة تأكيدها على ضرورة عمل اللجنة الوزارية من دون أي استثناءات لجنسية معينة، وباعتبار حق المرأة بمنح جنسيتها لأسرتها حق طبيعي وليس «تجنيساً أو توطيناً»، على اعتبار أن ذلك جزء من حقهن بالمواطنة الكاملة، ومدخل لتعزيز المواطنة للرجال والنساء، والتأكيد على انسجام الحق بجنسية المرأة مع صلب الدستور الذي يكفل المساواة بين الجنسين
Twin  rallies held in Beirut for women’s nationality rights, professors’ benefits
April 04, 2012  02:20 AM By Justin  Salhani

BEIRUT: Two separate rallies took place in Downtown Beirut Tuesday, one  demanding Lebanese women be granted the right to pass their nationality to their  husbands and children, and the other calling for full-time contracts to be given  to deserving Lebanese University professors.

A sit-in of about 80 people took place in Riad Solh Square to protest the  current Lebanese nationality law.

The group, named Jinsiyyati (My Nationality), took aim at the committee  assembled by Parliament to discuss amending the standing law.

The current committee has repeatedly stated that it is working toward  promulgating a law that would allow Lebanese women to pass on their nationality  to their children, so long as their husbands are not Palestinian.

The campaigners took issue with such a tack and called on the committee to  reconsider the principles of the law, asking that Lebanese women be allowed to  pass on their nationality not only to their children but to their husbands as  well, with “no exceptions.”

Lama Naja, Jinsiyyati’s coordinator, told The Daily Star that if husbands of  Lebanese women are not granted Lebanese nationality, some might be forced to  abandon their children. With “no social security, no medical assistance and no  insurance” in Lebanon, such men might well move elsewhere, she claimed.

Khaldoun Sharif, an adviser to Prime Minister Najib Mikati, said that the  current situation is “unbelievable and unacceptable” but spoke of support for  change among certain politicians, including the prime minister. “[Mikati]  supports [the campaign] 100 percent. This campaign is right,” he insisted.

Another man in the crowd was Thomas Hornig, an American saxophonist who has  lived in Lebanon since 1994.

“I fell in love with a Lebanese woman at university in Paris,” Hornig said. “After university she wanted to go back to her country.”

Hornig was hired as a musician at the National Conservatory and has since  been a Professor of Saxophone in addition to performing with the Lebanese  Philharmonic Orchestra.

“I work or play or teach almost 24 hours a day and I still can’t make ends  meet. I’ve paid my own residency and insurance for 14 years,” he complained.

Hornig argued that he’s done his part for his newly adopted country and  deserves citizenship. “When the Israelis left in 2000, I performed with Julia  Boutros, and in 2006 I was in Kuwait with Charbel Rouhana at a benefit for  victims of the war [with Israel].”

With so many people in the country unable to claim Lebanese nationality  because they were born to Lebanese mothers and foreign fathers, Hornig feels  Lebanon faces an increasing “brain drain.”

Also Tuesday, a small group of professors from the Lebanese University  gathered in the same area to demand full-time contracts.

The group of around 50 professors congregated in Riad al-Solh Square to  bemoan their ineligibility for benefits, including transportation allowance,  health care and a pension plan.

“We have no benefits at all,” said Rania Majzoub Sabra, adding that every  professor in attendance held a doctorate but was still being manipulated by the  state institution.

Majzoub Sabra rued the fact that although part-time teachers have the same  workload as their full-time counterparts and are members of the same committees  at the university, they are still paid on an hourly basis because it’s cheaper  for the university.

She added that the current problem stemmed from sectarian politics in  Lebanon, saying that the hiring of full-time teachers was based on unofficial  quotas for the representation of political parties among the teaching staff.

“We want academic standards,” Sabra said.

… واعتصام رمزي لـ”جنسيتي حق لي ولأسرتي”

نفذت حملة “جنسيتي حق لي ولاسرتي” اعتصاما رمزيا في ساحة رياض الصلح مقابل السرايا، وتلت لما نجا مذكرة توجهت فيها باسم الحملة الى مجلس الوزراء واللجنة الوزارية المؤلفة من نائب رئيس المجلس سمير مقبل، وزير الشؤون الاجتماعية وائل ابو فاعور، وزير الداخلية مروان شربل، وزير العدل شكيب قرطباوي، وطالبتهم بـ”الاسراع في العمل على صوغ القانون الجديد للجنسية وتوضيح الاسس المرجعية، والمبادىء التي ستستند اليها خلال عملها، وفصل موضوع اعطاء النساء اللبنانيات حقهن بمنح الجنسية لاسرهن عن اي قضية اخرى متعلقة بقانون الجنسية”. وتسلم المذكرة مستشار رئيس مجلس الوزراء نجيب ميقاتي، خلدون الشريف الذي قال: “ان قضية منح الام اللبنانية جنسيتها لاسرتها لها بعد وطني وانساني وشرعي وليست لغاية سياسية”. وقالت حياة ارسلان: “ان هذه القضية هي قضية مساواة والهدف ايصالها عبر الكلمة والحوار الى عقول المسؤولين بمستوى راق”، وطالبت “اللجنة التي تدرس قانون الجنسية بتحقيق الوعود”.

source: Annahar http://www.annahar.com/article.php?t=mahaly&p=14&d=24696

Facebook photo album of the sit in:

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Source: Daily star

BEIRUT: Talk among those in the know suggests that many Lebanese MPs, when asked about the two most irksome issues facing them in Parliament, cite the domestic violence and nationality draft laws.

Lina Abou-Habib, coordinator of the campaign for equal citizenship rights for women, is delighted by the rumor.

“I think it’s an excellent sign,” she says. After years of campaigning on the issue, Abou-Habib is sensing a change in momentum.

“I think something that has happened is that people, and particularly women, have realized it is their right to have rights.”

“That awakening is irreversible,” she adds.

As the law stands, Lebanese women are not entitled to pass their citizenship onto their children, meaning that if they marry a non-Lebanese citizen, they are unable to pass on their nationality, rendering it difficult for their children to receive state benefits such as education and health care.

Campaigners handed a draft law on the issue to Parliament last July, but have yet to receive a response from Prime Minister Najib Mikati. For Abou-Habib, the executive director of CRTD-A, a regional gender-research nongovernmental organization based in Beirut, while legal change is eventually vital, a widespread change in attitudes is more important at this stage.

This is finally beginning to happen now, she believes, thanks to simultaneous efforts from various women’s rights movements, including those speaking out against domestic violence and sexual harassment and nationality campaigners.

“I think women’s organizations have been able to make these issues public issues, but at the same time make them individual issues,” she says.

Women are realizing that “it’s not just bad luck if you happen to be married to a foreigner, and it’s not just bad luck if you are beaten by your husband,” but “that actually it’s a violation of rights.”

Nadine Moawad, a member of Nasawiya, the Lebanese feminist collective, agrees. “Everyone knows it’s an issue. They understand the suffering of people who live here and can’t put their children in public school.”

“There’s a lot of anger and resentment, which is good. I think what we’re seeing here is more important than legal change. This is exactly the definition of active citizenship,” Abou-Habib says.

Now that there has been this gradual change in thinking, on the part of the general public, it is now time for that mentality shift to reach Parliament, Abou-Habib says.

After a protest in late December, 2012 will see the campaigners continue with such civil mobilization, but also begin to lobby every bloc in Parliament, in an effort to garner support for the draft law.

But Abou-Habib believes the time for semantics is over. “I think we’re now beyond explanations, we’re at the level of challenging and making sure it’s on the agenda.”

The process of arranging meetings with parliamentarians can be extremely time consuming, as Abou-Habib says, “It can take you five months to get an appointment with a politician.” However, as she stresses, meeting with campaigners “is not a favor: it his duty. He needs to listen.”

It is vital to meet with every group within Parliament, she says, as “at the end of the day, everybody is failing in being a true democratic decision maker. Everyone is equally failing women. And all their political differences don’t matter. When it comes to the denial of rights, they all converge.”

Leader of the opposition Saad Hariri in January tweeted that he was in full support of the nationality campaign, saying “I am all for women giving the #Lebanese nationality to their children and husbands, I think it’s shameful that we don’t.”

However, Abou-Habib is skeptical saying nationality campaign is usually the last item on the agenda of politicians.

For many, the pervasive hypocrisy among Lebanese politicians on this cause was further exemplified by the announcement late last year that the Cabinet had passed a draft law allowing the descendants of Lebanese fathers or grandfathers to apply for citizenship, even if they themselves had never lived in the country.

For Moawad, “This was the final straw. It really became obvious that it’s not an issue of population or a sectarian issue,” as politicians insisted for so long, she says.

“It’s now strictly a misogynist issue. Lebanese mothers are not recognized as people,” Moawad adds. “I think it’s very simply stripped down to an issue of state misogyny.”

Activists were further incensed when Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi last month said full nationality rights for women would be “dangerous.”

“This is the minister of justice? I think they should change the name of his post. It should be the minister of discrimination. The minister of inequality, the minister of machismo and sexism,” said Abou-Habib.

However, she insists, “I’m not going to be dispirited by a bigot.”

Campaign leaders met Monday with Labor Minister Charbel Nahhas to discuss last year’s Cabinet decision to issue work permits to the non-Lebanese husbands and children of Lebanese women.

“We wanted to share with him exactly what is happening on the ground, and individual cases where some people are having difficulties.”

“It was a frank discussion, and he showed real concern for citizens and citizens’ rights.”

The major challenges that remain, according to Abou-Habib, are that, primarily, “the people in power … do not take rights seriously, and secondly, that their interests come first. And I think these are very powerful obstacles.”

For Moawad, the nationality campaigners are not going to give up their struggle any time soon, but the final stretch may take some time.

“I don’t know what the campaign could do that it hasn’t done already,” she says. “No draft laws are budging in Parliament, on violence or nationality.”

“Anything short of a whole refurbishment of the entire system of government,” might not be enough to usher in these social reforms, Moawad believes. “I don’t really know what else there is to be done apart from changing the sectarian, corrupt system of government.”

“Maybe all women should go on strike,” she suggests.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 09, 2012, on page 4.
Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Local-News/2012/Feb-09/162688-nationality-campaigners-vow-to-fight-on-despite-obstacles.ashx#ixzz1lxt2Cry5
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)

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