Cyprus's Ambassador Thessalia Salina Shabos (left), Zionist Union MK Stav Shaffir and Canada's Ambassador Deborah A. Lyons at the Panel Women in Diplomacy at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference in Jerusalem in November 21, 2018.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Women are increasingly being appointed as heads of diplomatic missions. And sometimes, like Canadian Ambassador Deborah Lyons, they are sent to Muslim countries – where not only values are different, but attitudes toward women are as well.
Before coming to Israel, Lyons served as ambassador to Afghanistan.
On Wednesday, at The Jerusalem Post’s annual Diplomatic Conference at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Jerusalem, she sat down with fellow Ambassador Thessalia Salina Shambos of Cyprus and MK Stav Shaffir of the Zionist Union to discuss how far women have come in both diplomacy and politics.
Shaffir was clearly annoyed that an intelligent group of people was tasked with talking about a gender issue instead of diplomacy itself.
Diplomacy is a means of resolving conflicts and making the world a better place, she said.
Shaffir’s definition of a good diplomat, irrespective of gender, was someone who has experience, skill, vision and courage.
While Israeli diplomats do have the first two qualities, she did not see much evidence of the latter two qualities, she said. But as for the record number of women in the Knesset, Shaffir said that she did not regard this as an achievement because she personally has never suffered gender discrimination, and has always done what she wants to do.
Lyons concurred that women do get a little tired of being treated as experts on women’s issues. Several of her male colleagues are no less interested in gender parity, she said.
She said she was proud that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whom she described as a self-proclaimed feminist, has created a parity cabinet, with equal numbers of women and men.
But that doesn’t make the world a rosier place for women. Quoting various statistical surveys, Lyons said that one in three women in the world has been raped or has been the victim of domestic or sexual violence in her lifetime.
Both Lyons and Shambos spoke of the trillions of dollars that could be added to the global economy if women were added in greater numbers to the workforce.
Asked about the effect of the #MeToo phenomenon, Shambos said it was important because women were too often judged for the wrong reasons.
The #MeToo movement broke the culture of silence because women for so many years have been perceived as victims of violence, conflicts and silence.
“What we do has an impact on the future,” Shambos said in reference not only to speaking out against sexual aggression, but also in the realm of diplomacy. “It’s crucial to put a gender perspective in conflict resolution and peace building.”
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