Ring The Bell for Gender Equality

March 7, 2019

On the occasion of International Women’s Day (March 8 th ) Lebanon has
hosted for the first time a “Ring the Bell” ceremony to raise awareness of the pivotal role the private sector can play in advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment. The event was organized under the patronage of H.E. Prime Minister Mr. Saad Hariri, in partnership with the Global Compact Network Lebanon (GCNL), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the empowerment of Women (UN Women), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Beirut Stock Exchange (BSE) and the Canadian Embassy in Lebanon.

The event hosted at Le Yacht Club aimed at displaying the business case for gender equality and highlighting how private sector leaders are taking concrete steps to invest in women in the workplace, marketplace and community.

Dr. Ghaleb Mahmassani, acting chairman of the Beirut Stock Exchange inaugurated the event before ringing the market’s closing bell to draw attention to the critical role that the business sector and markets can and must play in bridging the gender inequality gap. Mr. James Zhan, the UNCTAD Director for Investment and Chair of the Sustainable Stock Exchanges SSE joined the stage to declare that Beirut Stock Exchange joined the SSE initiative to promote more sustainable and transparent capital markets.

Dr. Dima Jamali, President of GCNL, stressed on the fact that promoting women’s full participation in the workforce, equal opportunities for leadership and investing in women, helps fight gender biases. She said that “It also generates financial returns in the private sector and results in improved environment, social and governance standards and help achieve the Agenda 2030.”

Ms. Rachel Dore-Weeks, Head of UN Women Lebanon, and Regional Advisor on Peace, Security and Humanitarian Action for the Arab States, said, “this is an opportunity for UN Women and our partners to launch the Women Empowerment Principles in Lebanon. In doing this, we commit to supporting the private sector in Lebanon to meet to core principles of the WEPs: Corporate leadership for gender equality, Fair treatment at work for women and men, Safety and well being of women and men at workspaces, Equal opportunities in training, professional development, and Promoting equality through community initiatives».

Mr. Saad Sabrah, IFC Country Head in Lebanon, noted that “increasing women’s participation on boards will result in a greater focus on corporate governance, which is key to improving performance and attracting investors.” IFC presented in a video the results of their recent study on the positive impact of female board members on the financial performance of Lebanese companies. Graduates of the corporate governance program of IFC were also present and applauded for their valuable participation and achievements.

H.E. Emmanuelle Lamoureux, Ambassador of Canada to Lebanon, said that “To create an environment in which women and men have equal opportunities to thrive and contribute to the economy, all involved actors need to collaborate: government, civil society, private sector, and the local and international community. Only by uniting our strengths and coordinating our efforts will we unleash women’s economic potential”.

The event presented the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs), a joint initiative of UN Women and the UN Global Compact which provides concrete guidelines for businesses on how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community, an animated video introduced its 7 principles https://youtu.be/_BlOgUguLsQ. Ms. May Makhzoumi has always been advocating for gender equality as part of her role as GCNL’s Goal Leader for SDG 5. Through her contributions, policy dialogue, advocacy and
Lobbying efforts, Ms. Makhzoumi is keen on forging the necessary national and international partnerships and stewardship to initiate and keep track of activities in relation to her SDG. At the event, Ms. May Makhzoumi, joined Ms. Iman Al Damen, Chair of the Women on Boards Association in Jordan and Ms. Gina Lund, Director General of Skills in Norway in an inspiring discussion about their personal experience under the theme of “Breaking the Glass Ceiling”.

The session discussed global and regional experiences in line with the international efforts to advocate for gender parity and to empower women to play a vital role in companies’ growth, skills, and experience. This was followed by a call to action from BLC’s Chairman & General Manager Mr. Nadim Kassar to join the UN Women Empowerment Principles. It is worth noting that BLC Bank is a founding member of Global Compact Network Lebanon and the first Bank in the MENA to commit to the UN Women Empowerment Principles. To bring to fruition the commitments, CEOs were invited to ring the bell, sign and endorse the Women Empowerment Principles WEPs.

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