The Film

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Although Lebanon is considered the most progressive nation in the Arab world, only four of the 128 Lebanese parliament members are women.  Madame Parliamentarian, a short documentary film depicting women’s historically low participation in Lebanon’s political life, explores the reasons behind this situation and examines solutions adopted by other countries to increase the number of women in political leadership.

Madame Parliamentarian is available for use in conferences, seminars, and at colleges and universities. The 16-minute film is an educational tool to complement panel discussions and Q&A conversations with the filmmaker or specialized speakers.  The film has screened in various cities around the world, at film festivals, conferences, think tanks, and community screenings.

English and Arabic (subtitled in English) / Additional versions available with French and Arabic subtitles
Countries of Production: Lebanon/U.S.A.  2014
FILM TRT: 15 minutes 18 seconds
Available for sale online to the educational market.

The Lebanese Parliament has 128 seats. Members of Parliament are chosen by popular vote and they, in turn, vote for the President of the Republic. Between 1975 and 1991, no elections took place due to the civil war in Lebanon.
Lebanese women have been voting since 1952, in fairly equal proportion to men, but only a handful officially run for elections. The number of women in the Lebanese Parliament went up from three to six in the June 2005 elections then back to four in 2009. Some of the female members of Parliament have been the sister of a former Prime Minister, two widows of slain presidents, the wife of a militia leader who was in jail, and daughters of late politicians.

Lebanese women generally have equal legal rights, with the exception of a few arcane constraints. They are considered more modern and liberated compared to other women within the region. Women in the major cities of Lebanon tend to be highly educated, hold jobs and managerial positions, and have freedom of movement and dress. Men and women in rural areas tend to be more conservative and endure social and political pressure to vote homogenously according to their affiliation with a local clan, leader or party.

The Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE) is a non-governmental organization focusing on election reform, civil society and democracy. Amongst its various programs, LADE organizes workshops and media campaigns encouraging women to vote, run, and participate in politics.
In 2005, LADE organized an unprecedented media campaign addressing women through TV spots and billboards. The billboards featured two well-known female political show hosts from two major TV networks. The messages included “Raise your Voice,” “Justice is Feminine,” and “Democracy is Feminine.”
The young female activists in LADE are progressive in their political involvement, leading protests and potentially being groomed for running for political seats in the future.

Film Interviewees
Dr. Marguerite Helou political consultant and professor of politics science at Haigazian University
Najat Sharafeddine Lebanese broadcast journalist
Dr. Chantal Sarkis scholar specializing in women and political life in Lebanon
Myrna Shidrawi former member of the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE)
Doreen Khoury former executive director of LADE
Ghassan Makarem former executive director of LADE
Walid Fakhreddine former executive director of LADE
Nada Majdalani media professional
and local voters and activists.

Related Academic Subjects

  • Political Science
  • Middle East Studies
  • International Relations
  • International development or social justice
  • Women’s studies, women’s rights

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