Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘women

NASA posts a lot of cool images

NASA owes a great debt to women, and it’s great to see the agency highlighting their contributions

In short, NASA’s photos are awe-inspiring and completely breathtaking.

But the photo NASA posted for International Women’s Day may be one of the space agency’s most inspiring:

Image from NASA.

This 2010 photo was the first time four women were in space at the same time.

So who are the badass women in NASA’s International Women’s Day photo?

1. Stephanie Wilson, an engineer and the second African-American woman in space.

Stephanie Wilson in a training module. Image from NASA.

2. Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, a former high school astronomy and earth sciences teacher, who served as a mission specialist on that particular flight.

Working in microgravity requires a little ingenuity when it comes to moving stuff around. Image from NASA/Wikimedia Commons.

3. Naoko Yamazaki, an engineer and researcher who was part of the Japanese Aerospace eXploration Agency and the second Japanese woman in space.

Naoko Yamazaki eats a snack in microgravity. Image from NASA.

4. And Tracy Caldwell Dyson, a chemist, who served as flight engineer and performed three successful spacewalks on that mission.

Tracy Caldwell Dyson in the ISS’ cupola, looking through the — hands-down — best windows in the solar system. Image from NASA/WIkimedia Commons.

Since the photo was taken in 2010, Yamazaki and Metcalf-Lindenburger have retired from spaceflight and moved on to different things, but Wilson and Dyson are still active in the astronaut program.

Though the first astronauts were mostly male, there’s a long list of awesome ladies without whose hard work humans would have never left the planet.

Women like Katherine Johnson, an African-American woman who calculated trajectories for the missions that put the first Americans in space and for the moon landing. She was so good that when NASA first started using computers, they called her in to verify the numbers.

Image from NASA.

Lately, Johnson’s been getting the credit she deserves. President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. A movie about her life and the other women who worked alongside her, starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe, is slated to hit theaters in 2017.

Since Johnson began working at NASA, 58 different women have flown into space — and 49 women have flown in missions with NASA — in a variety of roles from engineers and specialists to managers and educators to commanders and crew.

Today, there are only three people in space, none of whom are women, but thanks to NASA’s 2013 astronaut class, more are on the way.

The 2013 astronaut candidate class is evenly split, with four men and four women — including Christina Hammock Koch, Nicole Aunapu Mann, Anne McClain, Jessica Meir.

This is the class of astronauts who might be part of our first mission to Mars!

They’re probably already preparing their “one small step” speeches and I, for one, can’t wait to hear them.

At a time when it’s so crucial that we show kids that women have an equal place in STEM fields, on International Women’s Day (and every day) it’s great to share these women’s stories and make sure their contributions are not forgotten.

In Gaza, Bicycles Are a Battleground for Women Who Dare to Ride

SALAHUDDIN ROAD, Gaza Strip — The four women pedaling bicycles with jammed gears and wobbly chains up Salahuddin Road, Gaza’s bumpy main highway, on a recent morning caused quite a stir.

The driver of a three-wheeled tuk-tuk slowed down and a teenager on a horse-drawn cart sped up to match the women’s pace.

A jeep filled with Hamas gunmen beeped and cheered as it passed, and a pack of men on motorbikes left a wake of catcalls.

The sight of women on two wheels was so unusual that Alaa, 11, who was grazing sheep on the grassy median, assumed they were foreigners and shouted out his limited English vocabulary: “Hello! One, two, three!”

Ms. Suleiman, center, and other women with their bikes in Gaza on Friday. Credit Wissam Nassar for The New York Times

The women ignored the hubbub as they pedaled from Jabalia, a crammed cinder-block town in Gaza’s north, to the Hamas checkpoint before the heavily restricted border crossing into Israel. They dumped their bikes in a nearby olive grove and sat down for a picnic of cheese sandwiches.


 ‘Men still run the world – and it’s not going that well’

Where are all the women leaders? According to the latest data from UN Women, only 22% of all national parliamentarians are female. (That’s a huge number in modern States)

Only 11 women serve as head of state, and 10 serve as head of government. (Only Merkel has power in her position)

To all the people who still think that “women have it all”!

Noor Al-Hajri shared this link

Away from the political world, the numbers are just as bad – or even worse.

Although women account for almost half of the college-educated workforce in the US, they hold only 19% of board seats, and are only 4.6% of CEOs.”

(I posit that the educated married women have far more power to lead their family and husband than any political position)

In the US, women make up almost half of the college-educated workforce, but hold only 19% of board seats.

Away from the political world, the numbers are just as bad – or even worse. Although women account for almost half of the college-educated workforce in the US, they hold only 19% of board seats, and are only 4.6% of CEOs.

Sheryl Sandberg – Facebook’s COO and a rare example of a woman leader in the male-dominated world of technology – thinks it’s time that changed. “Men still run the world – and I’m not sure it’s going that well,” she told participants at a session on the future of work in Davos. And until we rectify that, everyone will suffer: “It means we’re not using the full talent of the population.”

Women like to go to the restroom together

Women like to go to the restroom together, when they sit in some public places, at a restaurant, or at a seminar, even if it comes to intimate or family gatherings.

They wait each other in front of the bathrooms door, keeping each other purse, jacket, umbrella, in contemplation.

“Do you need to go to the toilet?”

“No, but I’ll come with you.”

Sometimes, while pissing, they talk about important issues: about love, about the events in the world or about brownie recipes.

Some women, if they do not have with whom to go to the bathroom, suffer until they get home.

And it’s not insecurity or a puzzle to be solved, it is a mutual concern, it is the mutual protection.

It is keeping the privileges that would be denied.
– Naida Mujkic

Painting by Arabella Proffer

See More

berlin-artparasites's photo.


Lebanon’s patchwork of personal status laws: Failing the women citizens. Unhappy ever after?

All couples hope their marriages will work out and they will live happily ever after.

The truth is that many relationships end in divorce and Lebanese couples are no exception.

According to a 2012 study by the Lebanese Central Administration of Statistics, there were almost 6,000 divorces in 2010. The issue for these couples and for society at large is how to ensure a fair separation that guarantees the rights of each spouse and protects their children.

Nadim Houry , deputy MENA director at Human Rights Watch, posted this March 13, 2015

(Un)happily ever after

Lebanon’s patchwork of personal status laws is failing women

On that front, Lebanon is failing miserably to ensure fair treatment of women.

It is widely known that Lebanon does not have a civil code regulating personal status matters.

Instead, there are 15 separate personal status laws for the different recognized religious communities, which are administered by separate religious courts.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently reviewed 447 legal judgments issued by these religious courts to examine how they handle divorce, child custody and financial issues emanating from separations or divorce.

The cases, dating from 2009–2012, were selected at random.

Lebanon’s religion-based laws discriminate against women across the religious spectrum

The findings were troubling. Lebanon’s religion-based laws discriminate against women across the religious spectrum. Women had lesser rights than men to ask for divorce.

Under Lebanon’s Shia, Sunni and Druze laws, men can demand a divorce at any time — unilaterally, and without cause — while a woman’s ability to access divorce is limited, and often at great cost and after lengthy court proceedings.

In principle, Islamic laws allow women to have an explicit clause inserted into the marriage contract stating that the wife can also have an equal right to unilateral divorce, but this right is rarely exercised due to social customs.

Only 3 of the 150 divorce judgments before Islamic courts that HRW reviewed included such clauses.

While divorce is difficult for both men and women under Christian laws, Christian men find it easier to circumvent these restrictions, including by converting to Islam and remarrying without divorcing.

As a practical matter, many women who spoke to HRW said these restrictions meant that they were forced to stay in abusive marriages — at great risk to themselves and their children, and that in some cases they had to give up their financial or custody rights in exchange for a divorce.

Some women even had to pay their husbands to seek the divorce.

Women also face discrimination in relation to distribution of marital property after a marriage ends.

Lebanese law does not recognize noneconomic contributions to a marriage or the concept of marital property, so after a separation property reverts to the spouse in whose name it is registered — typically the husband — regardless of who has contributed to it or what role a wife may have played in supporting her husband throughout their marriage.

In addition, even though the Druze and Christian confessions require the spouse responsible for the termination of the marriage to compensate the other, in practice these amounts are usually not enough to allow women to support themselves.

In Lebanon’s Islamic courts, after a divorce, a woman is left with only the deferred mahr (dowry) stipulated in the marriage contract, but this is often just a symbolic figure such as one lira or one gold coin.

Discrimination also extends to one of the most difficult aspects of any separation: child custody.

The HRW review of court cases found that in many cases, judges removed children from their mothers, but not their fathers, on grounds of fitness due to ‘questionable’ social behaviors because of the mother’s supposed religious affiliation, or because she remarried instead of making these decisions based on the best interest of the child.

The fear of losing their children was so great that some women HRW interviewed stayed in abusive marriages, gave up their monetary rights, or did not remarry so they could keep custody.

“I forced myself to bear beyond what a human being can take, all the injustices and violence,” said a Maronite woman who endured years of physical abuse but only sought a divorce after her children became adults because she feared losing them.

The current system is not only unfair. It is broken.

Some couples are converting to different confessions to be able to get married while others are converting to get a divorce. And many couples are simply voting with their feet, getting on a plane to get a civil marriage abroad.

Ending a marriage or determining who a child should live with after a divorce are difficult enough decisions. The least Lebanon can do is ensure that the laws are fair.

It is time for the country to adopt an optional civil code that would ensure equal rights for all Lebanese who wish to marry under it. But it is also time to get the Lebanese state to exercise oversight over religious courts. Not all marriages last, but at least we should have laws that help to give them a happy ending.


Why women are not in any dollar bill?

Why scientific achievements do not replace male figures on dollar bills?

Thinking forward: 2020 will mark the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

Andrew Jackson’s portrait has held its place on the $20 bill since Jackson replaced Grover Cleveland in 1928.

For the organizers of Women on $20s, that’s quite long enough. “A woman’s place is on the money,” the Women on $20s campaign says. The new group has come up with a list of 15 women it would like to see on the $20 bill instead, including Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt and Harriet Tubman.

Abby Ohlheiser posted this March 3, 2015 

This group wants to banish Andrew Jackson from the $20 bill

Campaign organizers are targeting the 20 because 2020 will mark the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

But there’s another reason: Jackson’s authorization and enforcement of the Indian Removal Act of 1830 — which forced several Native American tribes to give up their land to white farmers and move to Oklahoma — makes his continued presence on American currency controversial.

Slate pitched the idea of doing away with the seventh U.S. president’s face on the $20 bill last year, writing: “Andrew Jackson engineered a genocide. He shouldn’t be on our currency.”

Jackson, Women on $20s executive director Susan Ades Stone said in a phone interview, also hated paper currency anyway – much favoring gold and silver. “The guy would be rolling in his grave to know that every day the ATM spits out bills with his face on it,” he added.

The Women on $20s campaign aims to “literally raise the profile of a woman in a male-dominated field,” the nonprofit’s founder Barbara Ortiz Howard wrote on the site.

Right now, the only woman on a currently circulating piece of U.S. currency is Sacagawea, on the dollar coin.

The U.S. Mint lists two other coins depicting women: Helen Keller is on the reverse side of the 2003 Alabama quarter, and Susan B. Anthony was on the dollar coin until 1981.

(That’s a great start)

Organizers are asking visitors to vote for one of 15 women they’ve selected as possible candidates to replace Jackson in a survey that is also doubling as a petition. The group hopes to collect enough signatures – about 100,000 – to justify sending a petition to the White House on the issue, asking the president to recommend the change to the Treasury. Stone said that the group collected about 8,000 votes in the past 60 hours.

“The goal is to get it done, but it’s not only about that. It’s about raising awareness and making sure people get to know these women,” Stone added. The group envisions the campaign lasting through March, which is Women’s History Month.

But, Stone added, “If President Obama says tomorrow that he wants to do this, we’re not gonna say no.”

Although the new campaign still seems a longshot, a similar petition also prompted Britain to announce in 2013 that it would put Jane Austen on the 10-pound note.

As Buzzfeed’s write-up notes, Obama has generally supported the idea of putting a woman on currency. “Last week, a young girl wrote to ask me why aren’t there any women on our currency,” the president said in a July speech in Kansas City.

“And then she gave me like a long list of possible women to put on our dollar bills and quarters and stuff — which I thought was a pretty good idea.”

The organization whittled down a list of finalists based on two main criteria – the individual’s impact on society, and the difficulty they faced in doing so, Stone said.

Here are the 15 choices of Women on $20s, which Stone hopes will, as a group, “tell a great American story of women not only helping other women but helping to improve the lives of all Americans despite facing enormous obstacles along the way:”

  • Clara Barton‎, the founder of the American Red Cross
  • Margaret Sanger‎, who opened the first birth control clinic in the US.
  • Rachel Carson‎, a marine biologist who wrote the hugely influential environmental book Silent Spring
  • Rosa Parks‎, the iconic civil rights activist
  • Harriet Tubman‎, the abolitionist activist famed for her journeys on the underground railroad
  • Barbara Jordan‎, a politician who was the first black woman in the south to be elected to the House of Representatives
  • Betty Friedan‎, feminist author of the Feminine Mystique 
  • Frances Perkins‎, the Secretary of Labor under FDR, who was the first woman appointed to the U.S. Cabinet
  • Susan B. Anthony‎, women’s suffrage movement leader
  • Shirley Chisholm‎, the first African-American woman elected to Congress
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton‎, early women’s rights activist and abolitionist
  • Eleanor Roosevelt‎, human rights activist and former first Lady
  • Sojourner Truth‎, African American women’s rights activist and abolitionist
  • Alice Paul‎, women’s suffrage movement leader

At least one of those choices is already rather controversial, as noted by Breitbart, whose headline about the campaign reads:


Note: Every US President tried to chase out the native Indians. Jackson was better than many President in his achievement and standing out against the Rothschild financial enslavement of the US treasury and printing of the dollar.


Abusive relationships? Why women refrain from breaking it? And vice versa…

BEIRUT: As a resident doctor at AUB Medical Center, Lubna Abul-Husn took a deep interest in domestic abuse.

Ten years ago, she interviewed dozens of patients, cataloging their experiences at home with “intimate partner violence,” a term that refers to physical, emotional and verbal abuse of a close partner or spouse.

Kareem Shaheen published in the Lebanese daily The Daily Star, this Oct. 19, 2013: “Why do women in Lebanon stay in abusive relationships?”

She then spent a year in France studying family legal medicine before returning home and ending her engagement with a fiance from her province.

Her fiance broke into her home, killed her, her mother and her sister, before committing suicide, according to her colleagues at the time.

File - Women activists protest against domestic violence near the Parliament in Beirut, Monday, July 22, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

File – Women activists protest against domestic violence near the Parliament in Beirut, Monday, July 22, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

“It was devastating,” said Johnny Awwad, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and head of the division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at AUB Medical Center, and Abul-Husn’s colleague.

Awwad, along with other doctors at AUB, completed the analysis of Abul-Husn’s research. The paper was finally submitted for publication this year in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

“We couldn’t really look at this paper for the longest time,” he said. “We had been avoiding looking back at this phase but I don’t think that gives her justice.”

The study polled 100 married women aged 20-65 who were visiting the AUB Medical Center for gynecological care, 91 of whom responded to the survey. It is one of the few that tries to quantify the prevalence of domestic abuse in Lebanon, and that looks at the reasons behind why women here stay in abusive relationships.

But perhaps its most startling discovery is how even women in these relationships find it completely normal for such abuse to happen – a testament to how ingrained the gender imbalance is in society.

“Intimate partner violence is an underestimated problem in Lebanon and has been largely ignored by the local authorities,” the study said. “The Lebanese health care system has failed so far to play a proactive role in identifying and referring abused women, mostly because the recognition of an abusive pattern in women is often blurred by cultural and societal taboos.”

Over 40 percent of the women polled said they had suffered from physical abuse. A third endured sexual abuse, nearly two-thirds were victims of verbal abuse, and 19 percent said they had experienced emotional abuse.

More than a fifth of the women had suffered social isolation imposed by their husbands.

The top reasons women expressed as a reason for staying in an abusive relationship were a lack of familial and social support, lack of financial resources and fear that their husband would take away the children.

In eight of the cases that suffered physical abuse, medical attention was required and three cases were admitted to hospital with vertebral fractures and miscarriages.

But the study went further, selecting a subsample of 33 women and asking them open-ended questions on their husbands’ treatment.

All the women, including those who were abused, said they were satisfied with their husbands’ treatment.

“Many abused women are totally resigned to their situation and decide to stay in an abusive relationship because of the fear of losing their children, the need to conform to social expectations, the lack of financial independence, the lack of family support, and the duty to obey their spouses,” the researchers said.

Domestic abuse appeared to usher in other social ills. Women who suffered physical and verbal abuse were more likely to be smokers. Husbands who had a history of alcohol abuse were more likely to impose social and economic isolation on their wives.

Declining monthly income made it more likely for a husband to use a weapon against his wife, while a higher number of children offered a protective factor for women, illustrating the challenges wrought by economic, security and political instability in the country.

The head and the extremities were the most frequent areas of the woman’s body suffering from physical injury, and hitting was the most frequent mechanism of abuse followed by slapping and pushing.

The rate of domestic violence in Lebanon is in sync with other developing countries and Arab societies, where comparable rates of abuse are present as well as similar justifications for staying in abusive relationships.

As part of their recommendations, the study’s authors, who are all doctors at AUB Medical Center, said that health centers in Lebanon ought to routinely screen patients in order to identify victims of domestic abuse.

Awwad said that such a step, while there is no evidence that it reduces abuse, would be a first step toward referring victims of abuse to support groups and treating the root causes of some of their problems.

But part of the issue is that the conversation around domestic abuse in Lebanon often focuses on anecdotal cases of violence, rather than tracking the prevalence of the issue in society.

“It is not enough to create support groups in our society that come and tell you that he’s been hitting you, he’s been abusing you, come to us and we’re going to support you,” Awwad said.

“Then what? Who is going to support the kids and secure her re-entry into society that stigmatizes her,” he said. “They cannot create another society for her. It’s a dead end, unfortunately, in this part of the world.”

That is partly because of the tribal nature of Lebanese society.

“Lebanon is a big tribe,” he said. “Where you go people would know you and would stigmatize you. You would have to travel and leave the country. So you’d have to stay with the family and your husband and believe that it’s normal.”

This, he said, leads to an acceptance of domestic abuse as a normal part of existence. The other issue is cultural.

The study’s authors said that domestic violence against women tends to be seen as a private, internal matter and not a major public health issue in Arab societies that are “patriarchal and characterized by male authority and dominance.”

That is reflected in how intimate partner violence had been largely ignored by local legal and religious authorities.

Awwad and his colleagues point to the initial rejections by religious authorities of domestic abuse legislation, which they saw as usurping the role of religion which already deals with the issue of domestic violence, and the continued failure to pass laws against domestic abuse.

A law protecting women from violence has been in legislative limbo for a long time due to Parliament’s failure to convene. Religious authorities initially opposed the legislation because they said Islam already deals with women’s rights and domestic relations.

“It would be a good step to pass this law,” Awwad said, adding that it could help deter some abuse, but would not be able to erase the “inherent right” that many men feel they have in wielding power in the household.

That built-in inequality is what poses enormous challenges to those who seek to challenge domestic abuse and society’s complacency toward it. There is little recourse but to begin at a young age, when minds are malleable and prejudice has not yet taken hold.

Values such as equality of women should be introduced at an early stage in education in order to combat such attitudes, Awwad said.

“I think it needs a generation, unfortunately,” he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 19, 2013, on page 3.

Read more:
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon

I don’t want to hire any more women.

Blogger Clarissa posted this May 14, 2014 (selected as one of the top posts).

You cringed when you read it and I cringed when I wrote it, and even more so when the thought first occurred to me.

I am a woman, a feminist, a mother, and a passionate entrepreneur. I don’t just stand for equality – I have crashed the glass ceiling in every aspect of my life.

I get extremely angry when I come across articles that insist there are gender differences that extend beyond physiology. I am fortunate to have had female role models who taught me through their own examples that I can accomplish absolutely anything I desire.

Over the years, I have hired outstanding women – educated, intelligent and highly articulate. Yet, I am exhausted. I have become profoundly tired of being a therapist and a babysitter, of being drawn into passive-aggressive mental games and into constantly questioning my own worth as a manager.

I have had several women who quit to stay home to “figure out what to do next”. No, not to stay home and care for children, but to mooch of a husband or a boyfriend while soul searching (aka: taking a language class or learning a new inapplicable skill that could be acquired after work).

Incidentally, I have not had a single male employee quit with no plan in mind.

I have had women cry in team meetings, come to my office to ask me if I still like them and create melodrama over the side of the office their desk was being placed.

I am simply incapable of verbalizing enough appreciation to female employees to satiate their need for it for at least a week’s worth of work. Here is one example to explain.

My receptionist was resigning and, while in tears, she told me that although she was passionate about our brand and loved the job, she could not overcome the fact that I did not thank her for her work. It really made me stop in my tracks and so I asked for an example. “Remember when I bought the pictures with butterflies to hang in the front? And you just came and said ‘thank you’? That is a perfect example!” – “Wait”, I said, “So, I did thank you then?” – “Yes! But you did not elaborate on what exactly you liked about them! Why didn’t you?”

She had bought them with the company credit card and I actually did not like them at all, but I digress.

I have developed a different approach for offering constructive criticism to male and female employees. When I have something to say to one of the men, I just say it! I don’t think it through – I simply spit it out, we have a brief discussion and we move on. They even frequently thank me for the feedback!

Not so fast with my female staff. I plan, I prepare, I think, I run it through my business partner and then I think again. I start with a lot of positive feedback before I feel that I have cushioned my one small negative comment sufficiently, yet it is rarely enough.

We talk forever, dissect every little piece of it, and then come back to the topic time and time again in the future. And I also have to confirm that I still like them – again and again, and again.

I am also yet to have a single male employee come to my office to give me dirt on a co-worker or share an awkward gossip-like story. My female employees though? Every. single. one.

When I opened my company, I was excited for many reasons. One of them was wanting to make it an amazing place for women to build their careers.

After all, we were two women, both mothers with very small children, opening a company in a very competitive industry. I was going to celebrate the achievements of my female hires, encourage them to find their voices, celebrate their pregnancies and year-long maternity leaves, be understanding and accommodating when they would have to juggle work/daycare/school schedules.

Yet, I had no idea that the problems women faced in their workplace were often far removed from the typical inequalities feminism continues to address. It is not men who sabotage women and stump their career growth – it is women themselves!

What is at the root of the problem? Lack of confidence? Wrong upbringing? What am I not seeing? Is there something else I should be doing as a manager?

I welcome your comments, as I secretly continue placing the resumes of female applicants into the “call later” folder.

The post was written by a guest blogger but the veracity of every aspect of the story has been verified by Blogger Clarissa.

WARNING: People in the past 2 hours I have had to Spam 63 comments from losers who tried to inform me that “men and women are psychologically / emotionally, etc. different.”

Once again, anybody who embarrasses him or herself by chirping idiotically “yes, men and women are different” will be banned outright.

This will be my small investment into sparing these losers further public embarrassment. Stop wasting your time, such comments are not going through on my blog.

Note: The main cause is the upbringing: the female environment, at home and among themselves.

From my experience, women in managerial levels are the most discriminating for both genders, and the reasons are never convincing or based on facts related to the job.

For example, I was “fired” because I was surprised that her husband looked younger than what I expected. The reaction was: “Are you saying that I look old?

Is Labor Day celebrations ringing hollow in your country?

Labor Day was first celebrated in the USA and was led by women workers. The Soviet Union made this celebration a world event (for workers), which forced the USA to shift the day to November?

Even current Russia reverted to communist zeal during this year celebration.

The celebration was crushed in Turkey.

The women in Bangladesh led the celebration in an angry demonstration demanding better and safer clothing factories (last year, over 2,000 girls died under the rubble).

Hong Kong workers were demanding reduction in the proposed tax increase.

And what the Lebanese were demanding? Everything, even respect for the Syrian workers in Lebanon and domestic maids.

Samya KullabJustin Salhani published in the Daily Star this May 01, 2014

Lebanon Labor Day celebrations ring hollow

BEIRUT: Tailor Nabil Qassem makes 35-40 shirts a week, each one costing $50. The need to find his monthly rent of $1,000 will bring him into work on Labor Day, a national holiday falling on May 1 that is meant to honor workers.

Qassem, 40, has worked in his Hamra shop for the past four years. Before that he worked in someone else’s store.

Workers carry wood for burning ahead of Labor Day in Zahrani, Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)
Workers carry wood for burning ahead of Labor Day in Zahrani, Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

Unlike the small businesses and informal sector workers who spoke to The Daily Star, Qassem maintains the importance of the holiday in principle, though he doesn’t plan to take the day off and celebrate.

For him, Labor Day “is just one of those holidays like Mother’s Day. … We have to make a living.”

Many private sector workers blamed the precarious security situation for their inability to make ends meet in the past six months. Their plight has highlighted the absence of a comprehensive social assistance plan from the government, especially for workers in the informal sector, who often live on unpredictable wages month to month.

“We are in a very bad situation,” says electrician Ghassan Bedran.

“In the last 6-7 months, business has been reduced 50%.

Bedran’s shop in Mar Mikhael, Beirut, brought in $10,000 per month last year. Now, it barely earns $4,000. “And they want higher wages,” he says, glancing at his handful of employees.

“If we give them higher salaries, we will have to close our doors.”

Bolstering the strength of unions to lobby for worker’s rights, such as the General Labor Confederation, would not make a difference either, the disillusioned Bedran says.

“All unions are political. They use workers and laborers for their own interests.”

Despite widespread disenchantment, gains for labor rights are looming on the horizon, especially in the area of social protection, according to the International Labor Organization.

Pension reform has long been a contentious issue, and last year – before the Cabinet was demoted to caretaker status – it was within reach for private sector workers, with a draft law devised by the government, the ILO and the World Bank.

Lebanon is one of the few [countries] that does not have a pension scheme for private sector workers in place,” said Ursula Kulke of the ILO.

Currently, Lebanon operates an end-of-service indemnity program under which retirees receive a one-off payment amounting to one month for each year worked.

The amount was deemed insufficient to cover monthly living expenses and family support upon death. The draft scheme, stalled after the government changeover, would transform lump-sum payments into a monthly pension, guaranteeing individuals social security for the remainder of their lives.

“We hope we can continue discussions with the minister of labor and other responsible people in the Cabinet so we can proceed and so that hopefully in the near future there can be a pension scheme that provides regular benefits and income replacement to retirees,” Kulke said.

Nevertheless, Kulke said there was a pressing need to secure those who are not covered by the National Social Security Fund. Though private sector employees are insured under the NSSF, those working for the informal sector have no insurance apart from ad hoc payments and government cash transfers.

“What we would like to see is the real establishment of a social protection floor for these people so they can enjoy minimum income security,” said Kulke.

“The government is trying to do much already, but it’s become a big challenge with the Syrian refugees.”

Former Labor Minister Charbel Nahas said politicians could better protect informal sector workers “by implementing laws and improving those laws.”

“Labor law and social security laws are not applied,” he told The Daily Star, citing the example of Spinney’s, a supermarket chain accused of penalizing their employees for trying to unionize, among other alleged infractions.

Spinney’s CEO Michael Wright took Nahhas to court last year after the former minister addressed the issue in the media and likened Wright to a “terrorist.”

Nahhas added that the creation of unions in the public sector and restoring the union movement was important to keep power out of politicians’ hands.

Meanwhile, in the bustling district of Burj Hammoud, jeweler Raffy Bablanian worries about how to keep his family business afloat.

It’s not just the loss of revenues due to the security situation that worries him.

“I learned how to make jewelry from my father 45 years ago, and I thought I would do the same for my son, but he doesn’t want to do this job,” he says despondently. Business is never okay these days, but Bablanian has found ways to manage.

To find someone in the family to carry on with the jewelry-making tradition in the age of “computers and iPads” is another challenge altogether, he says, adding: “You can’t fix lack of inspiration with a wage hike.”

 A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 01, 2014, on page 4.

Read more:
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::


In Egypt, A Movement To Place Women In The Public Eye




October 2022

Blog Stats

  • 1,508,614 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by

Join 820 other followers
%d bloggers like this: