Young People in Politics
With so much turmoil going on the World and specifically the Middle East we sat down with the host of the weekly TV show “Middle East Stream” which airs on Al Etejah TV Mrs. Marwa Osman to discuss the importance of politics, how it affects the youth of today and why women should be more involved in the political sphere.
Where did your interest in politics come from?
First let me begin by thanking you Ms. Haidar for giving me the chance to be part of this interview and wish you all the best with your work. Well, I live in a country where politics affects your everyday life whether you like it or not. From an early age even if our parents did not teach us about the ferocious enemy (the Zionist entity of Israel) residing on our southern border, we would know it by ourselves when this enemy either aggressively attacked our land or simply sent its war planes to break sound barriers in our sky which was a horrific experience for every Lebanese kid. So growing up and being obliged to watch the news due to the warzone we live in and count the deaths with the family around the TV set, I think I was destined to develop interest in politics when fear and anxiety became my everyday bread as all kids in my country. Yet it wasn’t until my high school years when I knew I wanted to pursue a career in politics or at least be able to understand politics and analyze it to better enhance my ability of comprehending how the world around me is being run. At the time I was graduating from college with a Master’s degree in Business Management, I started developing more interest in reading about the political history of the Arab world as I grew to understand that in the Middle East nothing is coincidental but rather goes according to plans and strategies formulated by world super powers. At that time I was also working as a business modeler in a consulting company which had signed a contract with a TV channel and it was then when I decided to give it a shot in as a news presenter and my career began at Etejah TV in 2011. Two years later I started presenting my current political show “The Middle East Stream” which airs twice a week live and tackles Middle Eastern political developments.
As a host of a weekly political show why do you think it is important that people become politically aware?
Politics is not only the events that occur in the house of parliament or during ministerial committee meetings or during times of elections. Politics are the events that control our daily life for example like the price of oil in the global market which in turn affects the price of local gasoline, the price of commodities, tuition fees, salaries and even baby food. Or maybe if a simple act of nature like a heavy storm or constant snow which might ruin crops or damage sea ports can directly affects our lives. All these economic and natural alterations put governments at decisive cross roads where local politics, which is by default affected by regional and international politics, gets to decide how the public will be hit by these political decisions. This forces the public to become publically aware even if they don’t really want to. And when we speak of a country like Lebanon where 18 different sects exist and each sect has its alliances and sources of power within the Lebanese government and also has its followers who believe that supporting this sect or the other will ensure them a better education or salary and hence a better life; then the public which is made up of these followers finds itself bound to keep track of local and regional politics in hope that tomorrow would be better than today.
With so many media outlets and conflicting opinions how can we accurately obtain political news without being biased?
No one can be unbiased when it comes to political news and no news media outlet can be either. In fact all media outlets are born with a certain mission statement in their business plan that reflects their role in specific. This makes a channel or a media outlet being biased as non-existent since the message this media outlet gives out will be in accordance to the will and benefit of the financer. Now that being said , it doesn’t mean that there are no news outlets that actually do support the oppressed against the oppressor and try to support the righteous against the ill doers in this world, yet still when one is reporting about an oppressed group of people he/she will definitely be biased toward this group; for example reporters who were covering live events in Gaza last summer found themselves being on the same side with the targeted civilians and even were being targeted themselves which forced them to make their best to deliver the voices of the righteous people of Gaza to the entire world against the Israeli aggression. However, being a presenter of a political show and hosting multiple guests in one episode, I tend to be as unbiased and moderate as possible to give the opportunity for the guests to present their personal or professional points of view without me pushing them toward a specific targeted opinion. That is the case in most of my episodes unless I am tackling an issue related to the Zionist entity, only then I am fully biased to the axis of resistance.
What advice would you give to our readers who are interested in becoming more politically active but afraid to do so?
Politics is a way of life. The way one proceeds with his/her studies or operates in his/her job or even the way he/she deals with ones’ family, so why should one be afraid of the way one faces and deals with society, government decisions or geopolitical challenges? Politics is not strictly confined with people of power, it is the public’s will that makes it possible for the people in power to implement certain policies. This means that if one is afraid of engaging in politics then one would be giving up his right to decide his own future to the people in power and as a result totalitarianism will be born and nurtured with the blessing of the weak and submissive public. The only way out of this result would be by engaging oneself in politics and only being afraid of the status quo which could lead to public’s political and social demise.
How do you manage the different viewpoints on your show and what message do you wish to send to your viewers?
During my show, I tend to leave the guests at will in responding but stand firm at stopping any form of unnecessary bickering or disrespect among the guests especially if they were providing contradicting points of view. At the end of the day they are on my show to try and sell their opinion to the public and not condemn or insult each other. The viewers are free to either accept or decline the guest’s views. But still at the end of every episode I tend to make sure that the viewers do see the bigger picture; meaning that the viewers should comprehend from the episode how and why events are developing the way they are in their region without keeping room for conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories is one notion that I cannot tolerate. It is vital for me to make it clear for the viewers that always and forever money and business is what formulates international politics and therefore local politics. It is all about how much money the people in power can make in a certain period of time which drives them to make the political decisions they end up making and that eventually directly affect the viewers’ lives.
Do you think that it is harder for women to be active in politics whether it be as a TV host or as a politician than it is for men?
In the Arab world it is hard for women to be active in roughly any domain due to the male dominated societies in our region. Yet to be fair in Lebanon the situation is a bit different.
The Lebanese society seems to be more tolerant to the idea of women in power whether in politics or career wise due to the mosaic diversity of religions and sects in this small country. However, despite this fact, a veiled woman is less likely to make it in Lebanon due to certain reactionary thoughts about religious women where some even dare to say that if a woman decides to be religious then she should be committed to her family and not engage in the society nor develop a career for herself. That is why it takes us veiled women literally double the effort to prove ourselves in any domain but Alhamdulilah we are getting there and the proof is you and me. So yes it is harder, but we are getting there.
Do you believe that women in Lebanon are active enough in politics and what more do you think could be done to encourage women to enter the political sphere?
Definitely they are. For example I felt the power of the female activity in Lebanon last year when finally the maternity leave in Lebanon was extended to 10 weeks. It was a pleasure to lobby the parliamentary committees, commissions, and ask the Member of Parliament to vote for our rights and it was a tremendous united fight. This is only one simple example of what women can do when they stand together but we will have to continue to fight for the other issues related to women like our right to pass on the Lebanese nationality to our children who are born from non-Lebanese fathers. Despite this passion within the Lebanese woman to fight for her right we still have to do a lot to encourage women to enter the political sphere and it all starts at home and at schools. At home both parents should empower their baby girls from an early age to trust in their own capabilities and boost them with the right doze of confidence so as to break their fear from failure. We should teach our baby girls that failure is a normal phase in life and that they should learn how to transform this failure into a new opportunity. And the real and most effective work must be done in school. The current curriculum should be significantly altered and updated in a way to ensure confidence boost and empowerment for the young ladies who will grow up to ultimately lead their country and not only give birth to the country’s male leaders. It is a lot of work I know, but we should start somewhere for the sake of my daughter and your daughter and for the sake of our sons as well to teach them how to share power and build more trust in their fellow female partners at home, at work and in society in general.