PWWSD Organizes Expanded Meeting in Zababdeh on Women’s Political Participation in Elections

Jenin – October 31: One goal of the Palestinian Working Woman Society for Development (PWWSD) is encouraging women to take an active role in decision making on a personal and community level, as well as increasing women’s participation in decision-making bodies, and supporting their representation in top-level political and community positions.

As part of the Swedish Center Party International Foundation (CIS) project for Supporting and Strengthening Women’s Political Participation, PWWSD organized an expanded meeting on Monday at the hall of the Roman Catholic Church of Visitation in Zababdeh, Jenin. The meeting addressed “Women’s Political Participation in Elections” and was attended by shadow council members from Jenin, as well as women’s organizations and Zababdeh community leaders.

Suzan Jarrar highlighted the significance of shadow councils, and the role of shadow council members in community development as active citizens, in addition to the organization’s role in expanding this initiative to all PWWSD locations.

PWWSD field coordinator, Subhiyeh Daraghmeh talked about women’s participation in elections, highlighting women’s presence in the 2004-2005 and 2012 elections, as well as the latest elections which were scheduled to be held on October 8th, but then postponed indefinitely by a Supreme Court decision. Daraghmeh noted the significance of electoral lists and women’s positions in them, as well as the need to strengthen women’s participation in political life through the electoral process, and the negative impact of delaying the elections on women’s freedoms and rights.

Central Elections Commission Jenin director, Mustafa Zareeni examined election law and candidacy conditions, women’s representation in electoral lists according to local election law (proportional representation), challenges facing women in electoral lists, and the role of the Central Elections Commission in dealing with these challenges. Zareeni addressed the code of honor signed by political parties and CSOs to facilitate the electoral process, then discussing the elections delays after working hard on many stages of the electoral process, as well as the tireless efforts of the Central Elections Commission to ensure election transparency and integrity.

Zababdeh Municipality public relations director, Rami D’ebes talked about the municipality’s role in strengthening women’s participation through proposed municipal projects, as well as the municipality’s structure, women’s quota, Christian quota, the different stages of local elections, and the role of councilwomen in community development and supporting the Zababdeh shadow council.

Jenin political party representative, Azmi Abu-Rub addressed the code of honor signed by political parties to raise women’s electoral list representation to 30%, as well as the negotiations with political parties to ensure top list positions for women, and the role of shadow council members and political parties in raising women’s participation in electoral lists and winning municipal council membership, in addition to the communal role of women in decision-making positions. All of these points are related to meeting the needs of the local community and changing the stereotypical view of women, which is a factor in the marginalization of women and their lack of access to decision-making positions. Not to mention family and political biases preventing women from participating in elections and pressuring them to advance family or party interests. Abu-Rub also noted that postponing the elections has further deepened the ongoing Palestinian division.

PWWSD director general, Amal Khreisheh talked about women’s quota as a temporary positive discrimination strategy and tool to access decision-making positions. Khreisheh emphasized the significance of the shadow council initiative, where 51 women ran for office from the 70 shadow councils working with PWWSD, as these councils have opened a safe space for women to participate in political life. Khreisheh talked about how shadow councils support local councilwomen and monitor local council policies from a gender perspective, and how shadow council operate as incubators for strengthening women’s capabilities and as a link between the local community and decision makers.

Khreisheh emphasized the need to work on removing all obstacles facing women, by developing the school curriculum, recruiting media outlets, and amending laws to adopt the values of equality, especially as the National Authority has signed a series of international agreements affirming those values, CEDAW in particular. She then discussed the code of honor signed by political parties to raise women’s percentage in electoral lists, noting that parties did not meet the agreed upon 30% quota, and highlighting how postponing the elections has and will impact women by detracting from their rights and freedoms.

Zababdeh shadow council delegate, Wurood Khalil talked about the all-new experience of forming a shadow council in Zababdeh, emphasizing the need to strengthen women’s political role and participation.

The workshop then opened the floor for discussion, where Jalbun shadow council delegate Etaf Abu-Rub talked about her experience working as a village council chairperson for a day, Ya’bad shadow council member Etaf Badarneh discussed her experience heading the municipal council for two months, and Jalamah shadow council member Manar Shaaban talked about her candidacy experience.

Attendees recommended that political parties respect the code of honor to raise women’s representation in electoral lists to 30% seeking a 50% ratio, and legislating this in Palestinian law, as well as keeping proportional representation law as is in order to avoid further division until we reach national unity and hold the elections as scheduled. Additional recommendations included: the need to hold legislative, presidential, and national council elections; lowering the election threshold in election law; lowering the age of candidacy to allow young candidates to run, and working with political parties to choose qualified women and men; and opening a dialogue between political parties and citizens on elections, democracy, and women’s rights.