Claudine Aoun Roukoz – Head of the National Commission for Women’s Affairs in Lebanon

We took some time to meet the daughter of the Lebanese president General Michel Aoun, and conducted an interview in the setting of the old souks in Zouk Mikael a historic traditional market part of Lebanon’s heritage. She shares with us in this interview some of the highlights of her life as CEO of a production company based in Lebanon, and goes on to discuss the new position she is filling as special assistant to the president. We go on to shed some light on her social and civic activities as well as her thoughts on the pillars that forge together Lebanese people.

Claudine is styled by: MA Fashion & Media Consultancy
Cover image: Top from Pinko by Fabula; Necklace from Chadia Hamati Jewelry

Center image: Full look from Lanvin available at Rodeo Drive Boutiques

 

 

  1. Could you tell us about your journey with Clementine SAL and venturing into the entrepreneurial world? In 2009, Lebanon held parliamentary elections. Naturally, as a leading political party the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) was actively involved in these elections. As FPM activists, we wanted to promote the values of the party and its electoral program, reaching out to different target audiences in Lebanon. In this sense, we didn’t have any considerable budget to do this advertising campaign nationwide, so we gathered as a group of volunteers in the FPM to create and activate our party’s electoral campaign, which registered astounding success. This achievement came as an innovative concept in the political arena in Lebanon, as Public affairs marketing and communications were overlooked or ignored by different political powers. This accomplishment inspired us to establish a communications agency named Clémentine that is right now serving the Lebanese industries and public institutions in their advertising and creative messaging campaigns. Here I would like to add that this is not my first venture; I always had a natural entrepreneurial spirit and inclined towards trying new concepts or coming up with new initiatives whether in business or politics in the context of my responsibility in the FPM. 
  2. What efforts have you been involved with, to foster multicultural understanding and positive space amongst your organization Clementine SAL?We are a collaborative space; meaning that we work in a positive environment that promotes cooperation and productivity in a comfortable setting. When there is any conflict between colleagues, I resort to resolving them through calm dialogue and try to create a common area through total transparency to reach a certain compromise on conflicting ideas. We accept people as they are and we are not in a position to prejudge anyone for his or her values. Clémentine’s team is only focused on how to best serve its clients from all inclinations.
  3. From your experience with Clementine SAL, has advertising been able to increase the competitive advantage of local businesses and-or allow them to compete on an international level? What other impacts has it had on the local markets in Lebanon?Clémentine was always focused on creativity and new ways to position any brand or entity. We think outside the box. I strongly believe that advertising and communications can create a 180-degree difference for any company that works consistently on its image and this was proven through our work at Clementine, where we saw the transformation of SMEs into very successful business models. We provide them with the right tools to compete and lead their way into local and regional markets. That said, I particularly enjoy providing support in Cause Marketing and I am very active in the advocacy of different pressing causes in the Lebanese society, namely the issues of preserving migratory birds, several health causes, waste management, and cultural activities among others.
  4. Can you name a few significant challenges you faced throughout your career and how are their experiences helping you cope with present obstacles?Each experience has its taste and helps you grow in maturity and awareness of new untapped matters. Every challenge puts you to the test and lets you face the next one with a more calm and balanced approach. You will be able to manage the stress that builds up and you become more able and consistent in negotiating difficult situations. For example, after 2009’s overwhelming efforts in the FPM’s electoral campaign, I gained much more perspective in dealing with challenges and look at them from a different angle in a 24/7 working environment where stress is all over the place, given the huge expectations the FPM placed on our communications campaign.
  5. Being active in different roles involving media, advertising, politics and culture, how do you manage to balance them? Where do you see yourself most? This is a very good question and this matter is crucial to have a happy life. On a personal level, I have a lot of elements to balance and find the right equilibrium for. Starting from the couple life and family going to my work at Clémentine and most importantly my new career as an assistant to the President; these are all vital areas I have to manage my time around. For instance, I set up my agenda for quality time with the family as a priority besides work meetings and political gatherings. But all these elements are linked to each other, politics for example, engages the family, friends and my business as an advertising agency. Advertising supports on the other hand my political and social activism, providing me with a better leverage to serve specific causes and provide efficient outreach to target audiences.
  6. What message would you like to share with women entrepreneurs and women in business? I tell women: Be bullish and work towards realizing your dreams without fear. You possess the right know-how, enough experience and intellectual potential. You are well positioned to take on any challenge despite the prejudice you face in the society. Impose yourself and stay concentrated on your goals because you can do it; that is your key to success.
  7. What was it like getting into the public service sector as a woman? I would like to note here that I have started my involvement in politics since I was 17 years old. I was since then assisting General Michel Aoun, my father, since he was Lebanon’s Prime Minister in 1989, and still accompanied him and supported him in his struggle as a leader fighting for the liberation of his country from his exile in France for 15 years. During this period in 1996, I found myself leading the organization of the FPM’s establishment conference. It didn’t end there of course and in 2005, it was our comeback to Lebanon, this is when I was head of the FPM leader’s office. Currently, I’m back assisting President Aoun in the Presidential Palace where all it began 28 years ago!As head of the National Commission for Women’s Affairs, I am energized to work on a cause that I have been advocating for a long time; in fact, in my position I’m very keen to provide the right push to engineer draft laws and legislations that promote legal equality between women and men, this means we strive for equality vis-à-vis the law; women can then get their rights within the legal framework, consequently empowering them in our society. We work on establishing a follow-up system on all draft laws that are not approved yet, and that in cooperation with active NGOs working on-ground towards the same goals.
  8. What do you think unifies the people of Lebanon? Being politically involved, how can the acceptance of diversity be further embedded into the culture and society? I strongly believe that through sound political practice, we can create hope for the people and gather them around common national goals whereby we don’t only promise them castles in the sky; but actually realize their dreams through an organized growth strategy so they can see their country developing and actually feel Lebanon transform into a civilized, environmentally clean, and a prosperous peaceful nation. Acceptance of Diversity and boosting tolerance between people is a result of good governance and transparent dealing in the public institutions’ daily work. When you give rights and opportunities to all people equally you will see more acceptance and even more relaxed interactions. We see that creating advanced legislations to provide a policy of balanced development of all Lebanese regions alike, will promote more tolerance between Lebanese. Yet the most important point remains in the daily practice of officials towards achieving these goals.
  1. To what extent are you involved in environmental sustainability? I’m involved to the bone in several environmental causes to ensure a safer and cleaner living space for our future generations, with initiatives focused on preserving the environment and boosting agriculture. My activism commences from my own home, my own building and at my workplace. I am leading different initiatives on providing sound waste management practices in different areas, including waste sorting and smart disposal. In addition to that, I am working actively on laws related to protecting migratory birds, as well as following up on legislations to energize forestation in all regions, protecting animals, regulating fishing, encouraging local cultivation of flowers and production of honey, as well as focusing on rehabilitating stone quarries, not to mention my activism towards limiting hunger in Lebanon and help in supplying food to the needy with the assistance of the Lebanese Food Bank.
  1. Will your public service initiatives facilitate humanitarian and social growth in the near future? I really hope that my public service will ultimately contribute to a better sociopolitical environment, an advanced welfare system and every effort I exert goes towards achieving my vision of a healthier society and cohesion between all Lebanese communities.
  1. In your opinion, what role do the Lebanese women entrepreneurs and social activists play in the advocacy and development of women’s rights in the Middle East and on a global scale? There are certain NGOs that are really active and play a key role in proposing and engineering draft laws and amending existing laws related to women rights. For example, NGOs working against domestic violence, already proposed this month, along with the Ministry of Justice, an amendment on the law against domestic violence. There are really serious attempts by social activists to develop existing legislations and provide an advanced legal umbrella for women’s rights in Lebanon.
  1. How does General Aoun’s Presidential role impact you and your future plans? It is a life-changing milestone for us! On a personal level, and as an assistant to the President following up closely on his office’s daily administrative work, it is a huge responsibility laid on my shoulders and on the whole team assisting and advising the President; I see this as a great challenge given the expectations that the Lebanese people have on this new President and what we can achieve as a governing authority. It is as well taking a great deal of my energy and time on a daily basis so my life has changed since General Aoun took over the Presidency.
  1. What is next for Claudine? I will be continuing the path I have started, and will keep pursuing my service to the country to see Lebanon as a happier, more prosperous and cleaner place for me to live in and for my children to enjoy a peaceful life in their country.

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