Earlier this year, CRTD.A (WLP-Lebanon) was engaged in some serious lobbying which led to the inclusion of the reform of the nationality law on the official agenda of the Cabinet meeting of March 21st 2012. This was the first time the matter was officially discussed with the Prime Minister that he gave indication that he is personally in favour of the reform of the law so that women have equal rights to transmit citizenship as men. During that same period, CRTD.A was also in discussions with the National Commission for Lebanese Women (NCLW) on the process of reforming the law as well as the development of a counter proposal for a new law. Both processes yielded results. The NCLW concluded a process of consultations which culminated in the drafting of a law petition. The Prime Minister for his part set up a Ministerial Committee formed of seven Ministers in order to review the nationality law and submit scenarios for reforms.
Four months after the creation of the Ministerial Committee, CRTD.A had organised a number of demonstrations, issued statements and arranged to meet with its President. Our demands were quite straightforward: CRTD.A requested the Commission be accountable to the criteria it will follow, its time frame and the mechanism for consultation with civil society organisations. In July 2012, we were able to secure a commitment from the President of the Committee that meetings and deliberations would commence in September. Since then, the Committee has met three times. Very little information came out from these meetings, a matter that CRTD.A denounced publicly.
Less than a month ago, and after repeated contact and follow-up, the Commission contacted CRTD.A and invited us for a meeting to share views on our position with regards to the reform. The meeting was held yesterday with six of the seven members of the Committee. CRTD.A invited three sister women’s organisations to join in as key stakeholders in the demand for the reform. During the meeting, CRTD.A and its sister organisations spoke in unison about the critical need for the reform, the fundamental principle of women’s rights as human rights, the impact of the denial of this right on women and the importance of acknowledging this right as a starting point. In our interface with Commission members, we were keen on understanding what were the barriers and challenges that were delaying progress and what is the timeline that the Commission is envisaging. We also enquired about the fate and whereabouts of the law proposal submitted by the NCLW and the importance of using it as a starting point for discussions.
Some may think that as long as the law has not been reformed, then nothing else is significant. This may be true on some level. However, the engagement in this lengthy and often painful process is a powerful example of civil society engaging in public policy making. We have moved a very long way since the Campaign started a decade ago. The process has involved research and gathering evidence, connecting and mobilising women, building women’s leadership capacities so that they themselves spearhead the campaign, engaging with the media, engaging with global networks, harnessing policy dialogue skills and using diverse and innovative lobbying tools and interventions. Since 2010, we have witnessed important changes such as the reform of the residency permit and work permit processes, the submission of a law petition by the National Commission for Lebanese Women headed by the First Lady who, herself, recognised our contribution in a recent public interview, and the creation of this unprecedented Ministerial Commission.
Campaigns led by communication via social media tools and high visibility events such as the now very popular flash mobs seem to abound these days. These types of intervention are certainly quite visible and attractive. Whether or not they actually do contribute to effective, useful and durable reforms is yet to be seen. However, our experience continues to demonstrate that, thus far, there is no real alternative to analysis, sound empirical knowledge, community based mobilisation of women. This entails knowledge of women’s realities and the kind of accompaniment and support needed to overcome these realities, and the importance of resilience, determination, patience, and long-term vision!
The process may take many more years to culminate in an effective reform. This may be too long for some. However, mind-sets, discourses, and priorities are changing among women and policy makers alike. Of equal importance is the fact that such long-term processes are showing us how important strong and long-term alliances are among women organisations.
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