On the occasion of International Women’s Day, the René Moawad Foundation organized a panel entitled “Pioneer Women from Lebanon”, which focused on the role of women empowerment in Lebanese society. The panelists were Karma Ekmekji, advisor to Prime Minister Saad Hariri for International Affairs and Relations, Rola Hoteit, the first ever female pilot in Lebanon, and the journalist Jana al-Dhaibi. The panel, that was held at the Pierre Farshakh theatre in the municipal building in Zgharta, North Lebanon, was moderated by Dr. Josette Moawad, in the presence of the General Manager of Rene Moawad Foundation, Nabil Moawad, the Qaemaqam of Zgharta, Mrs. Iman Al-Rafi’i, among others.

The ceremony started with a speech by the founder of RMF, former minister and MP, Nayla Moawad, which was given on her behalf by Dr. Hasna Moawad Tanios: “This year, we celebrate the International Women’s Day with a greater excitement as it coincides with the appointment of four women ministers in the current government. In the past parliamentary elections, there were 111 female candidates, while only 6 women had run for the elections in 1992. This is undoubtedly a significant achievement towards the active participation of women in the political life and in life in general, but we still have a long way to go and this requires great effort.

Women empowerment has always been at the heart of RMF’s projects, regardless of the sector they’re being implemented in: whether in agriculture, industry, local decentralization or in other fields. I believe that women now have enough confidence and strength to run the parliamentary elections. Women in all fields are becoming achievers at all levels. Today, I encourage women to make changes, no matter how simple, whether at home with their families, in their communities, at work, wherever they are. Every woman is an inspiration for other women in her surroundings, a living example that dreaming is possible, that there is hope, and that every day is women’s day, not just the 8th of March”.

Christian Saba, an economic development expert at the René Moawad Foundation and a women’s rights activist, gave a talk about her experience working in this field between Australia, where she was born and raised, and Lebanon, her country, which she decided to return to hoping to make a change.

During her intervention, Karma Ekmekji focused on the role of women in making a change, and on the role of men in supporting women as their partners. According to Ekmekji, women are mistaken if they think they are capable of making a change without men’s support.

Captain Rola Hoteit considered that breaking the barriers by being a woman pilot would not have been fully realized if she had not shared this experience with other women, who now became pilot themselves. “During my first solo trip, I felt a certain dread, but as soon as I landed, I felt that the experience I had gained over the past years had replaced the feeling of dread”, said Mrs Hoteit.

Jana Dhaibi chose to speak about her career in journalism and the role of the media in dealing with issues related to women’s rights, and dealing with women survivors of violence or victims. She also spoke about her personal experience as a single mother of a seven-year-old girl, and as a woman who got married at the age of 17, at an early age.

At the end, each of the three women received a token shield from the General Manager of RMF, Nabil Moawad and the Qaimqam of Zgharta, Iman Al-Rafi’i. The event was followed by a cocktail party.