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AGBU President Joins Lebanese Activists in Stopping Traffic, Protesting Lack of Women in Cabinet

Traffic stalled and offices stood still for five minutes Tuesday as women’s rights activists in Beirut protested against the exclusion of female ministers in the new Cabinet, reports Lebanon’s The Daily Star.

Positioning themselves as roadblocks in Downtown, Hamra and Sassine Square, the groups of several dozen demonstrators, part of the Lebanese Women’s Movement, held banners saying “A Cabinet without women is going backward.”

They also handed out flyers to passersby and waiting vehicles, asking them to “stop working, stop your cars and honk your horns for five minutes … for not appointing female ministers in the Cabinet,” as motorists split between those honking in support and those beeping in annoyance.

“It’s a disgrace that we see no women ministers in the new Cabinet. It sends a bad message,” said Zeina, a stalled driver who applauded the protests but did not want to give her last name.

“We are doing this to raise our voices and to say that what is going on is not fair toward women,” Aman Chaarani, president of the Lebanese Council of Women (LCW) told The Daily Star.

“We are taking our democratic rights to be represented in society and in government as citizens.”

LCW has been operating since 1953 but last week branched out to form the Lebanese Women’s Movement in a drive to attract a wider array of supporters to rally against the new 30-member all-male Cabinet.

The last three Cabinets have all had at least two female ministers, but the latest lineup, announced on Jun. 13, has failed to appoint any women, much to the annoyance of gender-equality activists.

“We have been working on this cause for a long time and were so happy to see women deputies, even if they were just a small percentage,” said protester Aida Markarian, president of the Lebanon branch of the Armenian General Benevolence Union (AGBU).

“We have so many talented and able young women in politics, they are university educated, they are lawyers, they are bankers,” said Chaarani. “They have also been elected with a bigger percentage of votes than many men.”

Activists have now vowed to launch an intensive nationwide campaign to pressure authorities into appointing a female minister and ending all forms of institutionalized discrimination against women.

“But the new generation has a different mentality, they are determined and I know that they will come back and fight back,” said Markarian.