Written by: Tamara Hadad

 

The role of women in municipal councils is an important element in the sustainable development process. The Palestinian woman, in particular, believes that work is a national duty to serve her country. This is an important factor in the maturation of the woman's personality and a basis for the development of important and prestigious social relations in society. The Palestinian woman is strong-willed, endowed with a spirit of seriousness, love of work and the ability to face the difficulties of contemporary life.

 

The Palestinian woman made many additions in numerous municipal councils, especially women who have scientific and practical experiences and expertise in the fields related to municipal work. The women in the local councils proved that they had a reliable ability at all levels and had a positive and effective presence, and were the most worthy, efficient and vital.

 

The participation of women in local councils represents an announcement of her exit from the home subsistence economy box to the contribution to the economic growth cycle. The entry of women into local councils, which are public service institutions that aim to provide community services within the different population centers, activates their role and their influential participation in decision-making related to community affairs.

 

Active contributions to municipal and institutional work in the Palestinian reality:

 

Women took care of the environment and cleanliness in the streets raised the work place by providing public parks, took care of public libraries, participated in the opening of art and heritage exhibitions and supported cultural and national activities.

 

All committees participated, such as the media and cultural committees, women and the building and organization committee, and honored workers and employees. They participated in planting gardens and painting murals, and participated in high school students’ graduation. They also celebrated International Women's Day and Mother's Day, honored children during their participation in the courses held by the municipality, contributed to supporting the category of people with special needs, honored teachers, participated in orphans and participated in sports events such as the marathon.

 

 

The participation of women in the local elections 2021: reality and hope:

 

Despite some women presenting and succeeding in local councils and municipalities, there are also women who have been marginalized at all stages of the electoral process. This occurred whether in the process of choosing the list or where they are located within the list. Some were not allowed to put their image within the framework of the list’s propaganda poster. Unfortunately, this is what we witnessed in the recent elections for the first phase of village councils and municipalities classified (C) in the Palestinian reality.

Many awareness-raising workshops contributed to educating women on their electoral rights, whether to run or be elected. It was noted that the volume of women’s participation in electoral lists has increased. However, her participation came only as a result of the existence of a quota that forced the heads of the lists to put women in order to achieve the quota condition and to accept that list within the framework of the Central Elections Committee. If it were not for the quota, we would have found the lists to consist mostly of men.

 

The participation rate of women was 25.9%, which means that it did not exceed the 26% that were approved during the general legislative elections which were cancelled in 2021. The percentage did not reach 30%, which the Palestinian parties demanded, and they did not succeed in raising it due to several reasons. Namely, these factions do not have the ability to implement their demand for the National Council in 2018 to raise the percentage of women’s candidacy in the electoral lists. There is no real feminist pressure to raise the rate. Even civil, local and feminist institutions have not been lobbying continuously to raise the rate of women's participation.

 

There is no breakthrough on women's participation in electoral lists:

 

It was noticed in the last elections that there was a clear absence of women, whether in the stage of candidacy or advertising. Therefore, we saw that most of the advertising publications do not contain pictures of women. Rather, they replaced their pictures with pieces of vases and a question mark or a sign (x) or a picture of the olive tree. Some lists do not have the candidates’ names or photos. This reflects a visible weakness in the presence of women, which will be reflected in the woman’s ability as her picture or name is not included within the framework of the municipal council. As for the reasons for the weak participation of women, it came from several factors:

 

• Societal culture does not accept that women lead a real movement in light of a patriarchal society in villages and cities alike.

• Lack of financial aspects prevents some socially capable women from forming electoral lists.

• Also, tribal, clan and partisanship still dominate the nature of decision-making and the formation of electoral lists without taking into account the criterion of competence and experience.

 

Recommendations that contribute to enhancing women’s participation in the second round of local elections:

 

The experience of electing women to municipal councils should have great support from men as voters because women are the focal point in knowing the women society’s needs. They are able to represent their demands within the council. In general, one of the important gains that have been achieved, which is a major and qualitative transformation, is to find a mechanism for the participation of half of the society in decision-making. It is important to have a recognition of women's abilities and wisdom in serving their country and society.

 

Hence, women’s participation must be enhanced through the media discourse to contribute to encouraging women. Just as the Palestinian family must encourage women to engage in public work, universities also have a role in cultivating a culture of community participation that enhances the role and participation of women within local bodies.

 

In addition, the Ministry of Women, the Women’s Union, women’s associations, women’s committees, women’s support committees, and shadow councils must encourage women to actively participate in the electoral process. This should be done to have women either run or vote. Given the great importance of municipal councils in response to the needs of local communities, stimulating participation in the decision-making process, improving the local environment and promoting municipal services to the population, the councils are public service institutions that aim to provide community services within the various population centers.

 

It is crucial to find equitable laws for the participation of women and to approve the percentage of 50% to be able to make decisions within the municipal council with full force. Specifically, voting for a specific decision within the municipal council needs more than half as well.

 

The tools of our society’s upbringing need technology since laws alone are not enough. Rather, we need a culture that helps the young to adopt new behaviors towards women. There would be a belief in full equality and champion the right of women to exist in the public space. In this matter, status is taken away, not given.

 

 

The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the Association or donor.