The Role of Women in Preserving the Environment in Tripoli
The Euro-Mediterranean Women’s Foundation sets up local clusters of gender equality actors coordinated by associations every year, in the following countries: Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia (1 per country).
Each local cluster of gender equality actors© chooses a target territory that can be a region or a province or a metropolitan area of a large city. Subsequently, the local cluster’s members define a topic of interest related to gender equality that they consider a priority in this target territory.
Each local cluster is made up of 5 actors working in favour of gender equality in the target territory: associations; research or education institutions; local or regional authorities or ministerial departments in charge of advocating for women’s rights; media; enterprises and trade unions. Their mission is to mobilize the gender equality actors through data collection, consultations and exchange of experiences. Thus, they analyse the situation related to the target topic and they follow-up the effectiveness of public policies in this area with a collective and participatory approach.
This bottom-up approach leads to produce a diagnosis of the situation that highlights the main obstacles to achieve gender equality, and to design a collaborative and replicable field project to address those obstacles. To date, local clusters were set in Algiers, Oran and Sétif (Algeria); Alexandria, Giza and Luxor (Egypt); Irbid, Ma’an and Zarqaa (Jordan); the eastern suburbs of Beirut, Mount Lebanon and Tripoli (Lebanon); Fès-Meknès, Marrakesh-Safi and SoussMassa (Morocco); Ramallah-Al Bireh, Bethlehem and El Khalil/Hebron Governorates (Palestine); and Douar Hicher, Monastir and Tozeur (Tunisia). These clusters focus on women’s access to political decision-making and high-level positions, women’s economic empowerment and professional inequalities and violence against women. This document presents the diagnosis which was conducted in the Caza (district) of Tripoli.
This diagnosis tackles women’s role in preserving the environment and natural resources. It was conducted by Donia for Sustainable Development association (hereafter referred as Donia association), in cooperation with the Faculty of Public Health at the Lebanese University – Third Branch, and the Order of Engineers and Architects in Tripoli. Specifically, the diagnosis was written by Ms. Nariman El Shamaa, President of the Donia Association, and supervised by Mr. Zouheir Hatab, Professor at the Institute of Social Sciences at the Lebanese University, as part of a pilot mobilization action of gender equality actors at the local level conducted in the caza (district) of Tripoli.
The Organization that Conducted the Diagnosis
Donia association works on an integrated set of goals based on the main pillars of sustainable development, i.e. society, economy, and environment. These goals are:
• to reduce poverty, support and empower vulnerable and marginalized groups and people with special needs and disabilities.
• to improve access to education, and health and social services.
• to promote citizenship, social justice, gender equality, and human rights.
• to combat violence and build a culture of tolerance and peace.
• to protect and manage natural resources, and to promote sustainable consumption and production patterns.
Objective and Context
On the short term, this diagnosis aims at underlining the low participation of women in environmental issues, by examining the role of main actors, and estimating the level of community participation of female environmental specialists, as well as activists. It also aims at identifying the hurdles and impediments to their participation. The ultimate objective lies in integrating women in issues related to the protection of the environment and natural resources, and in achieving full gender equality in this context.
Lebanon ranks amongst the most polluted countries. Some statistics revealed it being ranked 8th, while others ranked it at 23rd 1 on a global level. Besides the global ranking, many local
studies report high levels of pollution in Lebanon, though only few of them are dedicated to the Caza of Tripoli in particular (Caza o Qadaa is an Arabic word meaning district). According to experts, one of the most tangible and striking effects of pollution is cancer, followed by allergies, asthma, and skin diseases, while heart diseases are scarcely referred to as one of the pollution-related diseases.
Pollution, environment destruction, and climate change undoubtedly affect everyone, but the health effects of the environmental pollutants are more severe on women’s health because of the roles assumed by women inside and outside their household. Additionally, due to physiological differences, the exposure of women make them more likely to be hit by certain types of cancer, transmit toxins to their infants through breast milk, and cause fetal deformities and cognitive impairment that affect their children for life. This does not only affect women and children, but it also has long-term effects on the whole society. 2
Although women are the first to be affected by the deteriorated environmental situation, and its social, economic, and mental counter-effects, their interest in public issues is limited and they remain framed (mostly) within traditional stereotypical roles. Women’s involvement in environmental topics remains very low.
The research team adopted different methods to access information necessary to elaborate the diagnosis:
• Data collection: Collecting and mapping laws related to women, environment, international conventions and treaties, as well research papers about gender mainstreaming in environmental issues.
• Individual meetings: Individual meetings were held with the different members of the local cluster of gender equality actors©: ministries, municipal members of the 5 municipalities of Tripoli, civil society organizations (CSOs), the radio Fajr and the Lebanese University, the Balamand University in Koura, and the American University in Beirut. The research team worked in partnership with the Lebanese University – Third Branch, as well as with the University of Balamand Koura Campus, to collect data about the students and graduates of the Environment Department. The Order of Engineers was also contacted to collect data about female engineers, their numbers and contact details, as well as the Association of Environmental Engineers affiliated to the Order.
• Focus groups: Focus groups were held with female activists (31), engineers, students, and graduates from the Faculty of Health at the Lebanese University – Third Branch. During those meetings, women discussed the main environmental problems in Tripoli and their solutions in their eyes, the main obstacles to women’s participation in environmental issues and methods to overcome them.
• Survey: A survey was carried out using a standardized questionnaire developed during the focus groups, targeting 300 women from Tripoli and covering almost every area of the district, albeit at different rates, according to the distribution of female activists among the areas, and to the level of women’s response to fill the questionnaire. The questionnaire was divided into several sections: variables, economic indicators most related to the issue, practices, environmental awareness and vulnerability, social activity and obstacles, suggestions.
• A workshop that gathered 43 people: Heads of associations and civil society actors (both women and men) along with female environmental specialists have been invited to brainstorm suggestions about the best ways to stimulate women participation in environmental issues based on their field experiences.
The constraints to carry out the diagnosis can be summarized as follows:
• Absence of reference studies about the integration of women in environmental issues in Lebanon.
• Absence of programs and projects targeting gender mainstreaming in the environmental field by the relevant ministries (Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Administrative Reform, Ministry of State for Women’s Affairs …).
• Low response rate target groups.
• Difficulty to locate the place of residence within the area for some target groups, as the available information include all the members without specification (students and graduates of the Environment Department at the University of Balamand, environmental and non-environmental engineers at the Order of Engineers in Tripoli).
Main Terms and Concepts
Respondents: Girls and women who filled out the questionnaire, or attended the focus groups.
Gender: This term is used for social roles and relations as well as values specified by the society for each gender.
Gender equality: Ensuring both women and men have the same opportunities, rights and obligations in all different aspects of life, including easy access to resources and decision-making.
Women empowerment: Women empowerment is related to gender equality but it is differentiated by the ability of self-determination, use of rights, exercise of powers, and choice of alternatives.
Gender mainstreaming: It is the process of assessing the engagement of women and men in any planned action, including legislation, policy, or programs, in all fields and on all levels. It is a strategy that combines the experiences of both women and men in designing, delivering, monitoring and assessing policy and programs in all fields to combat inequality.
Environment: the natural (i.e. physical, chemical, and biological) and social surroundings where all living organisms exist, as well as interaction systems within the surrounding and between organisms and the surrounding.
Natural resources: environmental elements originating from water, air, earth, living organisms
Biodiversity: the variability among living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes biodiversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems.
Ecosystems: a biological community interacting with non-living environment as an ecological unit.
Tripoli is one of the six districts in Northern Lebanon. The district includes the administrative capital of Tripoli and consists of five municipalities: Tripoli – Mina – Qalamoun – Baddawi – Wadi El Nahla, they are all members in the Union of Al Fayhaa municipalities. Its area is estimated at 33 km2, and its population exceeds 600,000.
Northern Lebanon, namely Tripoli, has been deprived and marginalized for decades, although more than 20% of Lebanese citizens reside there, according to a study conducted in 2012 by the Central Administration of Statistics.
The Civil War, the sectarian, religious and regional policies, as well as the recurrent security unrest in Tripoli, contributed to the increase of the marginalization and to the exclusion of the district from social and economic development. Moreover, the Syrian crisis has affected the district on the security, economic, and social levels, as the North, including Tripoli, has welcomed over 40% of overall refugees coming to Lebanon. As a result, the economic, social, and environmental conditions degenerated. Tripoli is one of the poorest cities in Lebanon. Statistics, published by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) 3 in 2014, reveal that disadvantaged families amounted to 40%, and even to 67% in some areas in Tripoli such as Tabbaneh and Al Swaika. The most disadvantaged families totaled 38%, while medium to rich families reached 22%.
Environment Situation in Tripoli
Tripoli suffers from low levels of water coming from springs and underground wells due to climate changes that led to drought and precipitation scarcity, as per a statement issued by the North Lebanon Water Establishment on 7/10/2018, which led the latter to implement severe rationing programs in many areas.
The district also suffers from high levels of environmental pollution thus affecting public health. These pollutants result from several sources, but primarily from untreated solid and liquid waste.
Waste mismanagement in Tripoli causes the spread of household and non-household waste on the roads and around containers. They eventually end up in landfills on the waterfront, mixed with medical and industrial waste, slaughterhouses’ waste, and agricultural and construction waste, thus putting public health and environment at risk. These risks are manifested by air pollution with the increase of noxious emissions, leachate-contaminated groundwater and sea, thus leading to the pollution of maritime environment and destruction of the ecosystem.
Untreated wastewater coming from Tripoli and surrounding areas is also one of the main pollutants, as most of them flow into Abu Ali river and into the sea along the coast of Tripoli, and therefore contaminate surface water and groundwater, despite building a huge refinery since 2009, however pipes installations are to be completed.
There are also several other environmental problems such as air pollution which is caused by the exhausts of uncontrolled electricity generators, used by citizens as a main alternative for state-owned electricity grid due to daily cuts averaging 12 to 16 hours.
National Environmental Policies
The responsibility for this catastrophic environmental situation lies on many shoulders. First, citizens do not follow sound environmental practices. Second, municipalities do not assume their roles and obligations in managing, following up, monitoring, imposing the rule of law, setting policies, and taking decisions or taking part in decision-making on the state level. Third, the State has also adopted wrong environmental policies during the civil war, starting from 1975 to present.
These policies generated a national crisis, after waste dumps reached more than 940 distributed randomly 5 in many areas, in rivers and on the waterfront. This crisis reached its peak in 2015 when waste were strewn in Beirut streets, thus leading the government to move waste into other areas, including Tripoli, which fueled the growing crisis. More than one area adopted the same approach, thus leading to catastrophic results. The State has recently adopted pyrolysis as a waste treatment technique, involving burning waste for disposal. This was endorsed by the Council of Ministers within the Sustainable Policy Plan for Waste Management on the 11th of January 2018 and later ratified by the Parliament on the 24th of September 2018.
Most of the environmental policies and their applications violate the environmental standards and infringe the Environment Protection Law itself (Law number 444/2002) and the international conventions and treaties, mainly the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, the Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean and its Protocols, among others.
In Tripoli, the waste dump, the newly created sea landfill which was created in parrallel with the private economic area, the port, the wastewater refinery, the solid waste sorting plant, the vegetable wholesale market, and municipal slaughterhouses are all side by side showing the total lack of planning.
Engaging Citizens in Environmental Decision-Making
Wrong environmental policies leading to this catastrophic situation were faced by opposing movements from experts and civil society activists, mainly opposing the policy of incineration plants and landfills, whether in Tripoli or nationally, due to the environmental, health, and economic cost which contradicts with the concept of integrated waste management. Indeed, these policies lead to deplete municipal resources, waste natural resources and value recovered
from waste, and go against sustainable development. Moreover, in view of previous project management experiences, it is unlikely that heat treatment plants (pyrolysis plants) will be operated, managed and controlled in accordance with international standards.
However, objections expressed by experts and activists fell on deaf ears, as project execution is often initiated without conducting analyses on environmental impact, thus violating the Decree 8633/2012 that stipulates the obligation to conduct an environmental impact assessment analysis for this kind of projects prior to tendering and execution. Decision-making and execution are also happening without holding discussions with the local community and often do not take into account any opposing views, thus violating the Aarhus Convention 6 , which establishes a relation between the environment and human rights, and grants every individual – men and women equally – the right to access environmental information, to participate in decision-making from early stages, and to access justice, if needed.
As an example, the Council of Ministers approved the landfill project on the water front in Tripoli and signed it on the 11th of January 2018 without a public tender. The Tripoli projects’ followup committee took action prior to this resolution to prevent it due to its negative effects on the environment and economic activities in the region, and its proximity to houses. Its implementation started on the 27th of August 2018 prior to conducting environmental impact assessment. Finally, after civil society objections, the municipality called upon local community under the auspices of the Ministry of Environment to discuss the environmental impact assessment carried out by the Sustainable Environmental Solutions (SES) Company. Backfulling continues despite objections.
In view of this catastrophic environmental situation and protests by municipal members, and civil society activists, one can wonder about the role of women.
The Situation of Women in Tripoli and Nationally
Women of Tripoli are generally active, with outstanding community participation and numerous initiatives in various fields. They played an active role during the civil war and beyond, and had limited participation in peace and security issues, but often emerged through the work of civil
bodies and associations in the social, cultural and educational fields, and less clearly in political and other public affairs issues. However, women are marginalized in political parties, as well as in syndicates. Women’s associations have also addressed many issues affecting women, such as gender-based violence, early marriage, custody, economic and political empowerment, and capacity development through legislative and field processes.
Non-women’s associations and local bodies such as environmental associations and others have limited most of their projects to non-gender-specific activities, such as afforestation campaigns, beach cleaning, school education for children on hygiene and waste sorting and recycling. These exclude waste-sorting projects from the source and water rationing targeted at homes, with women often being the primary responsible for their management. These projects, although only recently active, are still in their early stages and are limitedly implemented in some areas, mainly the poorest.
Women of Tripoli, as well as Lebanese women together with men, albeit much less, have been active during the 2015 protests and subsequent solid waste crisis in Beirut and other areas in Lebanon, as well as in Tripoli with regard to the landfill problem. However, the role of women often remained limited to participating in demonstrations, sit-ins, and demanding solutions. They also remained inactive towards other environmental problems – which are many and whose risk level is not less than the waste problem, whether in Tripoli or nationally.
It is worth noting that Tripoli is characterized by having a high proportion of female environmental specialists, since the only department of environment of the Lebanese University is located in Tripoli. The number of students in that department for the year 2017-2018 totals 76, with 7 male students (9%), and 69 female students (91%). There are also other female students who pursue their studies in private universities outside the city and their number is hard to assess. Despite this potential, student and community participation in environmental issues remains negligible.
What about women’s intervention in decision-making in Tripoli and Lebanon in general? Few women hold positions of responsibility. On the municipal level, the five municipalities targeted in this diagnosis have 90 members, all men except for two women; one woman in Tripoli Municipality, and another woman in Mina. The percentage of women is therefore 2.2%, and it is less than the national rate of 5.6% achieved in the 2016 Elections. The percentage of women has regressed in Tripoli, since women have held 4 seats in Tripoli Municipality between 2010 and 2016.
Therefore, it might not be a coincidence that current female members are both head the social committees in their municipalities, although they are also active in their surroundings on many levels. The female member of Tripoli Municipality expressed the scarcity of difficulties she faced as a woman in the Municipal Council, although a proposal related to the recruitment of policewomen in the municipality was faced with objections before being approved. As for the member of the Mina Municipality, she pointed out facing harsher difficulties depriving her of heading the Environmental Committee, despite being a long-time environmental activist and an active member in environmental organizations.
Access to decision-making positions is a big challenge for women, on the local and national levels. Despite women making up more than 52% of the total voters in Lebanon as a whole, despite the efforts of international organizations and civil associations in order to bring women into decisionmaking positions through awareness and empowerment socially, economically and politically, and despite the staged campaigns demanding the quota for women in elected councils, the rate of women who actually reached the Parliament increased from 3.1% in the 2009 Elections to 3.6%, with 6 female MPs out of 128 MPs in the 2018 Parliamentary Elections. Tripoli had its first female representation among 7 MPs in the Constituency.
Only one woman from Tripoli has ever been a Minister in the Council of Minister since decades. The New Electoral Law did not help women, as the non-adoption of the quota for women and the continuation of confessional allocation of parliamentary seats as well as the geographical distribution of constituencies, the recurrent allocation of the preferential voting to the (male) head of the roll, and the poor solvency of women, which limits their ability to compete, were all factors preventing women from accessing equitable representation. Engaging women in the Council of Ministers is often minimal. The last government had only one woman out of 30 ministers, and the Ministry of State for Women’s Affairs, established for the first time in Lebanon, has a male minister. The Ministry of Environment was never held by a female minister in Lebanon’s history. This environment – rather hostile to women’s participation in decision-making positions – is the same environment that does not encourage women to take part in environmental issues.
Relation Between the Current Situation and the State’s Obligations On the National and International Levels
In order to identify the State’s efforts in this context and its international commitments, the next sessions presents the responses of the Ministries who have been consulted in the framework of the diagnosis:
a. Ministry of State for Women’s Affairs
- The Ministry stated that they have developed the National Strategy for Gender Equality 2017-2030 to accelerate the implementation of Lebanon’s commitments on women empowerment and gender equality. The development of the National Strategy was based on the following international conventions: Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action; United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security and the subsequent seven resolutions; Sustainable Development Goals and Sustainable Development Plan 2030; Paris Agreement on Climate Change; EU-Lebanon Partnership Priorities; Concluding Observations of Lebanon Report on the CEDAW.
- The National Strategy covers twelve areas of work, namely: poverty; legal reform; power and decision-making; education; economics, employment and entrepreneurship; genderbased violence; health; media and culture; environment; peace and security; crises and natural disasters; and institutional mechanisms. These goals should be translated into action plans to accelerate the effective implementation of Lebanon’s international commitments on gender equality and sustainable development. The Ministry of State for Women’s Affairs also takes part in the Ministerial Committee that follows up the implementation of the Sustainable Policy for Integrated Solid Waste Management, developed under the Council of Ministers’ Resolution number 45 dated 11th January 2018.
b. Ministry of Environment
The initiatives adopted by the Ministry of Environment in terms of integrating women in the preservation of the environment and natural resources in Lebanon can be summarized as follows:
- Participation of women working in the Ministry of Environment in the formulation of draft policies, strategies, plans, draft laws and regulations related to the Ministry’s regulatory affairs and environmental safety, and/or expressing opinions thereon.
- Designing the environmental policy objectives in the public and private sectors, including educational, pedagogic, and civil bodies, by conducting workshops and awareness and training sessions, and participation in the committees of nature reserves and their teams, overseen by the Ministry of Environment.
c. Ministry of Administrative Reform
This Ministry reported the absence of programs or plans related to the integration of women in environment protection, as its activities are focused on governance, accountability, transparency, and public departments’ capacity development.
d. Ministry of Social Affairs
The website of the Ministry indicates that the common projects it is executing in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment are related to awareness on hygiene in schools, and to Syrian refugees. Moreover, the plans do not address the State’s commitments to the recommendations of the Union for the Mediterranean ministerial conferences.
Challenges and Obstacles to Change
Hurdles Hindering the Improvement of the Current Situation
- Misconception of the environment among both genders, since it is only understaood as a waste problem instead of encompassing natural surroundings.
- Considering natural resources as mere products and services whose acquirement is based on financial capability and state’s capability to provide them, and not as exhaustible resources.
- Limiting women’s role in relation to environment to domestic environment, since they are mainly responsible for household management and hygiene, while men find themselves not involved in this.
- Believing that participating in environment-related issues must be limited to specialists.
- Part of society believes that any attempt to achieve gender equality at any level is likely to undermine family and society.
b. The situation of women
- The lack of female representation in decision-making positions contribute to limiting their participation in policy and decision-making related to the environment.
- The economic situation of women determines the extent and nature of their participation in public life.
- Because of their professional commitments and due to their work overload imposed by gender roles, women have neither the time nor the opportunity to participate both as recipients and disseminators of information.
c. Local community
- Limited number of local bodies and associations interested in involving women in the environmental field.
- Absence of long-term strategic programs.
- Different political affiliations of some local bodies and associations that largely hinder their interaction with each other to implement joint programs, and hinder action in certain areas.
- Lack of funding, as emerging associations often lack the knowledge of mechanisms to access funding.
- Lack of voluntary human resources.
d. Public departments (municipalities, Council for Development and Reconstruction 7 , ministries)
- Lack of transparency and difficulty of obtaining information on projects at global or environmental level, on their management, their costs and their technical means, are factors that weaken initiatives, hamper community participation and undermine any attempt to improve the situation. Women are often poorly represented in the implementation and monitoring of such activities, given existing barriers.
- Incompliance with laws and treaties that require involving the local community in decisions about projects at an early stage. Discussions/public debates are often not advertised as stated by law, or even merely advertised thus depriving interested people of participating and giving their opinions.
- Disregarding any proposal that opposes what has already been planned, which decreases the enthusiasm to participate.
e. State and regional organizations
- Lack of field programs aimed at engaging women in the environmental field.
Analysis of the Steps Taken by the Main Actors
The objectives of the plans developed by the Ministry of State for Women’s Affairs (The National Strategy for Gender Equality 2017-2030) and by the National Commission For Lebanese Women (National Strategy for Women in Lebanon 2011-2021) are both aligned and fall within the context of implementing the CEDAW. Despite the efforts deployed in many fields, the promotion of women’s role in the environmental field and natural resources protection did not gain the same level of interest as other fields.
The Ministry of Environment has worked towards promoting women’s presence in the Ministry, but this did not extend enough to include the integration of women in the environmental field at large. The Ministry of State for Women’s Affairs who developed the afore-mentioned plan is part of the National Commission to treat waste crisis as a ministry. However, it did not develop an execution plan and it did not extend its activities to develop national programs aimed at engaging women in this field.
Regarding the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Programme Manager in North-Lebanon has stated that environment-related programs are not gender-specific and rely on the participation of women as an indicator, without adding any further information.
Concerning the target municipalities, the Heads of the Municipal and Social Committees noted the absence of programs addressed to women in the environmental field. Although they acknowledged the importance of engaging women in that field, there is still a gap in their level of collaboration and interest in this topic.. One social committee member in Wadi El Nahla Municipality commented that the execution of infrastructure projects is more important than educating and enabling women.
Regarding associations, the National Commission for Lebanese Women stated in its fourth report about the implementation of the National Strategy for Women in Lebanon 2011-2021 that associations working in the environmental field did not participate as much as other associations did. The participation of associations in 2016 (year of report) reached 15, i.e.
17.5%, which is the same rate when it comes to protecting women and girls in emergencies, wars, and natural disasters. Although this reveals a slight progress in comparison to 2015 (16.9%) 8 , it stayed behind other fields whose participation rate reached between 26.3% and 33.3%.
The survey through questionnaires targeted 300 women and girls, of whom 50 are environmental specialists (graduates of the Faculty of Health and Environment at the Lebanese University), and 250 women and girls active in different fields, including housewives.
The total number of women who did not participate in any environmental activity was 187 of 300 (62.33%) 10 , and 113 women out of 300 had been involved in environmental activities at least once. The level of response was considered as an indicator. The characteristics of the respondents reflect the level of awareness and interest, whether they took part in environmental activities or not, and their ability to take part in future activities. It is worth noting that some active women did not want to fill in the questionnaire, and there was one husband who did not allow his wife to fill in the questionnaire and tore it up.
The questionnaire included 55 questions about environmental practices, and main problems and solutions (in their eyes), participation, obstacles, impediments, and suggestions to improve the situation, as well as variables. Based on the responses, a general view about the current situation was drawn-up. The questions were developed after gathering information from ministries, references and laws. Then, the questions were discussed during the focus groups targeting different categories of women, such as: activists, engineers, students and graduates of the Faculty of Health Department of Environment at the Lebanese University.
It is worth noting that the findings are related to the sample who responded to the survey, which was limited to 300 given the time and the means available. However, being statistically accurate as entails taking a larger sample.
a. Age group
50% of the respondents were aged between 20 and 30 years (150 women), 20% were aged between 30 and 40 years (60 women), 12% were aged between 40 and 50 years (36 women), and 11% were aged between 50 to 60 years (33 women). As for those aged less than 20 years (5.7%, 17 women) and more than 60 years (1.3%, 4 women), they were the least responsive groups.
b. Geographical areas
The highest response came from Azmi, Al Mi’atayn and Riad El Solh areas at 13%, followed by Baddawi and Mina at 11.7% (35 women for each area), Abi Samra at 11.3% (34 women), Qoubbeh at 10.7% (32 women), and Wadi El Nahla at 8% (24 women). While there is a huge difference between these areas economically and socially, the common ground is that there is a high rate of activists in these areas. Other areas such as Al Bahsas, Mharam, Bab El Ramel,
and Old Souqs, who were less responsive (3%, 9 women), do not have many social activities and few associations work there.
Tabbaneh area, where respondents’ rate was very low (at 1.7%, 5 women), is an exception since it received a lot of attention from international and national organizations due to its long history of suffering caused by frequent security unrests, deteriorating economic conditions and high illiteracy rate. However, many organizations in the area worked in peace, vocational training, infrastructure, strengthening security and peace, and mainly youth illegally carrying weapons. Projects for women were limited to literacy, training on sewing, cooking and domestic victuals for sale within the framework of economic empowerment, in addition to raising awareness about hygiene and sorting household waste. Programs aimed at empowerment and life skills for women were missing, and therefore did not make women active on the public level.
c. Level of academic education
The high level of academic education contributed significantly to the response rate, since the percentage of university graduates (i.e. bachelor’s degree holders) among respondents was 49% (147 women), in addition to 28% with master’s degree (84 women). Respondents with high school degrees totaled 7% (21 women) while below middle school respondents amounted to 12.7% (38 women). Those with doctorate’s degree had the least response rate at 3.3% (10 women). Other variables are behind these rates and they include age, family and work commitments.
d. Marital status
Regarding respondents’ marital status, there were 51% (153) single women, 35% (105) married, and 14% (42) with different marital statuses (including divorced, widow, and engaged). The number of children was excluded from survey findings as it requires a more precise research and it was hard to add it to the questionnaire given the large number of questions, which could have made the response even more difficult.
e. Environment-related practices
36% (108 women) of the respondents stated that they cook on a daily basis, among which 67% (72) get rid of the extra food, while 14% (15) throw food in the bin. 29% give the leftovers to animals (88 women out of 300), 29% feed the needy (88 women), and 8% (24 women) give them to relatives or neighbors. It is worth noting that respondents ticked more than one option. These findings reveal a waste in consuming food, water, and gas used for cooking, in addition to wasting time and money, as well as increasing the quantity of resulting solid waste. The team research was not able to find a source that refers to the study of these practices on the national level. However, these findings align with the study conducted by the Central Administration of Statistics that found that the average household expenditure on food in Northern Lebanon is 26.54% of the total expenditure, which includes housing, fuel, services, education, etc. thus exceeding other Lebanese regions. 11
Household waste sorting
Regarding source-solid waste sorting, whose importance was recently discussed at large, 95% of the respondents (285 women) stated that they believe that sorting contributes to the reduction of pollution. However, 53% (159 women) do not resort to sorting at all, while 26% (78 women) do it sometimes. These rates somehow reflect the difference between conviction and application. Some women pointed out that they do not resort to sorting as there are no containers specified for that purpose, and they do not trust that the company in charge of collection (Lavajet) is actually collecting the waste as sorted to be recycled, which leads to waste being mixed up again and ending up in landfills.
Source of information
As their source of information about waste sorting and its importance (except for environmental specialists), it was found that women refer to social media (83%, 250 women), television (61%, 184 women), family (35%, 105 women), academic learning (26.7%, 83 women). As for printed means such as books, magazines, and newspapers, they were the last resource together with audio means such as radio. This shows the strong level of impact of social media and the importance of using it as a main instrument in awareness campaigns.
f. Level of environmental awareness
Concerning environmental problems, respondents showed a good level of awareness about visible environmental problems, such as waste, contaminated drinking water, flow of sewage on the roads, air pollution due to emissions of diesel used as fuel for cars and smoke of generators. The more the problem was invisible, the less there was awareness about it. This includes soil and plant pollution, groundwater pollution, overfishing, climate changes, and inadequate environmental management in hospitals (except for the presence of bad experiences such as transmission of infections in some hospitals).
As for the solutions for the problems mentioned herein as well as others included in the questionnaire, non-environmental specialists did not have a clear vision on the right solutions except by merely raising awareness, without mentioning any other type of awareness and targets thereof. It is worth noting though that the responsibility often lies on the State, not to mention the individual responsibility lying on every citizen for some problems resulting from their practices.
g. Awareness about the relation between diseases and the environmental situation
Despite knowing the ambient environmental problems, there were different answers to the relation
between the spread of some diseases within families and pollution. It was not clear, therefore, which category was most aware of this relation, except for environmental specialists. 11% of the respondents (33 out of 272 respondents) stated they were strongly affected, while 11% (33 women) said they were not. Findings varied from low to average. Pollution-related diseases affecting respondents or members of their families, such as allergies, reached more than 80% (178 women), followed by asthma (31.5%, 70 women), skin rash (23%, 51 women), and also cancer (23%, 51 women). Early birth rates reached 4.5% (10 women) and congenital anomalies 2.7% (4 women).
It is worth mentioning that the highest rate for allergies, asthma, and cancers were recorded in Abi Samra in the first place, followed by Al Mi’atayn, Azmi, Riad El Solh, and Mina – these are areas with average to high-income. As for early births and congenital anomalies, they were recorded in Bab El Ramel, Nijmeh, Al Koura Place, Al Tal. Inhabitants of these regions are economically on lower income. It is crucial to forecast conducting specialized analyses to monitor diseases by regions, rates, and causes. It is worth noting that respondents ticked more than one option in the questionnaire.
h. Respondents’ occupation
The rate of working environmental specialists is 34% (17 women out of 50) compared to 56% of women with different specializations (139 women out of 250). Those who do not work at all amounted to 48% (for non-environmentalists, 24 women out of 50) compared to 36% for other specializations (89 women out of 250). As for those who work on temporary and interim basis, they were 9% (for non-environmentalists, 22 women out of 250) compared to 18% for environmentalists (9 women out of 50). Therefore, environmental specialists work less than women with different specializations, whether on permanent or temporary basis. It is worth considering that the national rate of women in employment is 24% 12 , and these findings only reflect the status of the respondents to the survey.
Rates were similar for environmentalists and other specialists who work outside their fields, at 62% for both categories.
Analysis of the Obstacles to Women’s Participation in Environmental Issues
From these findings, it appears that the main constraints to women’s participation in preserving the environment are:
a. Economic constraint
Non-working women or those who work intermittently have a low-income, which limits their ability to take part in social activities.
b. Work in a field different from that of specialization
This deprives them of working and being creative in their field of choice, deprives the society of benefiting from their academic and educational experiences and drains them in areas that are irrelevant to them, and thus reduces their ability to perform on the professional and social levels alike.
c. Participation in social activities
Social participation in the questionnaire was divided into two categories: taking the initiative or taking part in initiatives with others. However, given the misconception of initiatives among many respondents, both categories were combined in one title, which is participation.
In total, 113 women out of 300 have participated in an initiative so far. 66% of non-environmental specialists (165 women out of 250) said they never took part in any environmental activity at all. In return, 44% of the environmental specialists (22 women out of 50) stated they did not take part in any environmental social activity. The rate was the same for working and non-working women.
As previously stated in the section related to the situation of women, participation is limited to demonstrations, sit-ins, and beach cleaning or street cleaning and beautification campaigns of roads. As for environmental specialists, their social participation was mostly related to raising awareness on waste sorting for housewives and school children on a limited scale. The afore-mentioned participations were voluntary, except for two cases of temporary employees whose work ended with the end of the project.
d. Lack of awareness of the concept of environment
Except for environmental specialists, the first impediment to participation is the lack of clarity about environment, its definition, and its impact on public health and quality of life. There is a huge lack of awareness about environmental issues, and belief that these issues should be limited to environmental experts and activists. Environmental issues were also limited to waste. The term “waste” had 597 occurrences in the survey and it was the most serious problem for them. This is obviously due to the 2015 waste crisis in Lebanon (as previously mentioned) as it gained a great deal of attention among people and state given large media coverage.
It was also concluded that environment components such as water and fuel were considered mere products or services, rather than exhaustible natural resources that should be preserved. These environment misconceptions might have prevailed in the whole society (women and men), but our study was women-specific. It would be useful to carry out a study on conceptions, behaviors and obstacles for both genders.
e. Personal constraints
Overall, on a personal level, 35% of the permanent or temporary workers (66 women out of 187) said that lack of time is the biggest constraint regardless of their age range, although those aged between 30 and 40 years (15%), apart from lacking time, said they were tired, as they have to juggle between work and family commitments. This largely contributes to their inability to take part in social activities.
Family and relatives also add up to the obstacles and impediments of participation, even if to a small extent. Those aged less than 20 to 40 years, whether single or married, were prevented by a member of the family or husband (whichever applies). Fear of harassment was not a prominent obstacle in the questionnaires although many respondents declared that in the focus groups and meetings. Some women who did not previously participate referred to the lack of motivation by their relatives.
f. External constraints
16% of the respondents (48 women out of 300) stated that the lack of community engagement in environment projects discourages their active participation, while 22% (67 women) noted that the lack of supportive laws or non-compliance with current laws mainly hinder the success of the initiatives.
13% (6 women) who work in the environmental field and are aged between 20 and 30 years said that they find it difficult to be accepted as women by men, to be taken seriously, and they also find it difficult to have their guidance accepted, if they were holding a position that requires them to issue guidance to implement environment, health, and public safety standards.
39% of the respondents (environmental and non-environmental specialists, 44 women out of 113) who previously got involved in environmental issues, did not find enough resources neither to support their initiatives nor the projects they took part in along with others. Lack of funding was an obstacle for 29% out of them (33 women out 113), same for the lack of human resources. There were 10% of those who wished to implement initiatives that were not delivered for the same reason.
Regarding dealing with official entities and authorities, 24% (72 women) out of the respondents noted the non-cooperation of official entities, while some have an entrenched belief that change is impossible and that any initiative won’t succeed neither on an individual level nor on a collective
level, or that the outcomes will be limited. This is due to the existing gap and the mistrust between authorities and local community. 7.3% out of the respondents (22 women) considered lack of information as an obstacle, mainly those related to environmental projects.
Moreover, the volatile security situation limited participation and thwarted some initiatives. The security response to demonstrators against waste in Beirut in 2015 instilled fear or caution of attack which hindered participation in similar activities. Those who took part in the demonstrations were few anyways and did not even reach 5% of the respondents (15 women).
Although the tunnel looks a bit dark, the light emanates from acknowledging the problem. 74% out of the total respondents (222 women) believed that social habits lead to wasting natural resources. The highest percentage of those who believe there is wastefulness were aged between 30 and 40 years and reached 49% (most of them were university students).
At the same time, 92% (276 women) stated they were ready to learn new habits to preserve the environment and natural resources, while 90% (270) noted they were interested to take part in future activities.
Accordingly, as previously stated about the urgent need to tackle environmental issues to get out of the tunnel of environmental crises, and given what characterizes Tripoli, such as the high number of environmental specialists, the enthusiasm of associations to work on integrating women in environmental issues, there are big opportunities to deliver a series of projects starting with awareness and empowerment and ending with female environmentalists’ (specialists and non-specialists) access to decision-making positions.
Recommendations and Conclusions
Organized collaborative work among ministries, municipalities, and local organizations is key to improve the situation. Gender equality should be achieved to spur sustainable environmental development, and to integrate women not only in the environmental field but in all other fields, by:
- Ensuring that ministries implement the recommendations of the 2017 Fourth Union for the Mediterranean Ministerial Conference on Strengthening the Role of Women in Society, so as to achieve complete gender equality on all social and economic levels.
Enforcing the Aarhus Convention that connects environment with human rights, and gives three main rights: right to access information, right of both genders to participate in decision-making, and right to access justice.
- Developing an execution plan for the National Strategy for Gender Equality (20172030), and mainly for the ninth objective to “promote women’s role in environment”, following up on execution, and evaluating progress by submitting regular reports.
- Urging ministries, municipalities, and international and local organizations to adopt gender mainstreaming in all new projects, and reconsidering existing projects and developing them in accordance with gender mainstreaming.
- Urging ministries, municipalities, and international and local organizations to develop environmental programs targeting women at different levels, ranging from awareness raising to enabling active participation in bridging the gender gap in this field.
- Setting up a national fund backed by the Public Budget, and international organizations working in the region, to fund projects seeking the integration of women in public issues, in general, and in environmental issues, in particular.
- Observing gender mainstreaming in funding environment-related projects to ensure fair funding.
- Developing environmental projects designed, executed, and managed by women.
- Ensuring media support to promote the role of women in general, change the stereotype of women, and highlight the role of environmental workers and activists.
- Educating and empowering environmental specialists and activists on urgent and non-urgent environmental issues and relevant laws and policies, so as to enable their integration in designing, executing, monitoring and assessing policy and program in the environmental field, as well as political, economic, and social fields.
- Raising awareness on citizenship, personal and social responsibility, providing social accountability tools, and mechanisms to access funding.
- Establishing alliances to monitor the performance of actors and encourage them to develop programs, plans and projects for the integration of women in this field.
- Expanding studies and surveys in the social environmental field, and conducting a comparative study of concepts and behaviors affecting the environment for both genders.
- Conducting studies and researches about the spread of pollution-related diseases in Tripoli, especially those affecting women.
Based on this diagnosis, carried out with limited budget and targeting a relatively small sample, it appears that the main obstacles lie in gender discrimination and framing the role of women within stereotypical gender roles. Misconceptions about environment and natural resources among both genders, and difficult access to information, as well as the non-cooperation of official entities are all factors that resulted in the limitation of women’s interest in environmental issues.
In addition, job opportunities are rare, access to decision-making positions is limited, and women – including educated women – are not comfortable in the public sphere. All these factors require intervention to promote gender equality in general and in the environmental field in particular.
This will not be achieved without developing a long-term program working on engaging main actors, i.e. ministries, municipalities, international organizations, and local associations. And this program should be implemented on two levels. In the first place, it shall aim at increasing the awareness of all departments on the importance of women’s integration in the environmental field, to overcome obstacles and achieve fair gender mainstreaming in programs, projects, and funding. In the second place, it shall work with women to promote their awareness on environmental issues, and enable them to participate actively.
Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean, 1976
CENTRAL ADMINISTRATION OF STATISTICS, Average of annual expenditure of households on products categories and subcategories by regions, Lebanon, 2008
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMISSION FOR WESTERN ASIA (ESCWA), Mainstreaming Gender in Developmental Policies and Programmes, https://bit.ly/2RcL7gg
LEBANESE COUNCIL OF MINISTERS, Draft National Sustainable Development Strategy, Strategic Goals and Initiatives, 2015
MEDITERRANEAN WOMEN, Declaration on Gender and Climate, MedCOP Climate, Tangier, 2016
MERHEBI, DIMA, The Impact of Landfill on the Port of Tripoli and Maritime Environment, Department of Environment, Health, and Safety in Port of Tripoli, 2016
MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT, Policy Summary on Integrated Solid Waste Management, Lebanon, 2018
MINISTRY OF STATE FOR WOMEN’S AFFAIRS, National Strategy for Gender Equality (20172030), Lebanon, 2017
NATIONAL COMMISSION FOR LEBANESE WOMEN, National Strategy for Women in Lebanon (2012-2021), Lebanon, 2012
NATIONAL COMMISSION FOR LEBANESE WOMEN, Fourth report about the implementation of the National Strategy for Women in Lebanon 2011-2021, http://nclw.org.lb/wpcontent/uploads/2018/06/Yearly-Report-On-National-Action-Plan-Implementation-2016.pdf
NEHME, ADEEB, Urban Deprivation Guide, First Book, ESCWA, Lebanon 2014 Recommendations of the Fourth Ministerial Conference on Strengthening the Role of Women in Society, Cairo, 2017
UNECE, Quick guide to the Aarhus Convention
UNION FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN, Recommendations of the Third Ministerial Conference, Paris, 2013
UNITED NATIONS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME, Ensuring Gender Equity in Climate Change Financing
UNITED NATIONS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME, Environment for Development, Geo4, 2013
UNITED NATIONS ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMME, Gender Equality and the Environment Handbook
UNITED NATIONS ECONOMIC COMMISSION FOR EUROPE (UNECE), Quick guide to the Aarhus Convention (Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters), 2014, http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/ DAM/env/pp/Publications/Aarhus_brochure_Protecting_your_environment_eng.pdf
WATER RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION, 2008
WORLD BANK, Gender data portal (All gender indicators), http://datatopics.worldbank.org /gender/home
WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION, NEWSROOM, http://www.who.int/news-room/detail/15-032016-an-estimated-12-6-million-deaths-each-year-are-attributable-to-unhealthy-environments