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In Palestinian municipalities, women hold only 0.12% of local council seats. A research conducted by Kayan Feminist Organization on the exclusion of Palestinian women from local authorities revealed that Arab women suffer from various discriminatory structures, stemming from the fact that Arab Palestinian women in Israel are an indigenous minority that suffers from systematic exclusion from political decision-making positions, and as a result, this minority is also excluded from the public sphere.
To this end, Kayan launched a project aiming at promoting women’s participation in local governments by providing them with trainings and necessary tools to run for elections and play effective role in local councils. The project also aimed at addressing women’s exclusion on multiple levels: both nationally and locally, both preparing women to run and preparing society to accept their candidacy.
On the local level, Kayan worked with four women’s groups to provide them with the skills to campaign. In three of the targeted towns, women from the groups started their own political lists or, in one case, joined another political party. In the town of Ossifiya, this was the first successful all-women political party list in Palestinian society in Israel. Kayan also supported these women to change the culture around women’s participation in politics by planning and implementing public information campaigns, including videos.
On the national level, grassroots women’s assembly, the Jusur Forum, supported the effort with a campaign called, “Dorek” (your turn). The Jusur Forum is made up of 35 women representatives from a dozen local women’s groups. The “Dorek” campaign highlighted women political leaders, which changed the discourse around women’s role in elections by showing them as visible parts of the political world. It encouraged other local women to step up and take “their turn” in the political sphere. A Jusur Forum leader, reflecting on their success, called it “a women’s political renaissance.”
Two women were elected to local council from groups to whom Kayan offered support: Ayesha in Arabeh and Samira in Ossifiyeh. In both cases, women from their groups mobilized behind them. Samira is already looking at how to use her position to increase the participation of women on local committees.
Building on this momentum, Kayan continues to work towards changing mind-sets and the culture, through workshops. It will also continue building women’s political skills and supporting women in local council. The organization also intends to build a national forum of women councilors to offer mutual support, as many women councilors feel isolated and unsupported. Kayan will also continue media and social media campaigns that raise women’s voices in politics.
This platform is part of the Axis 1 "Strengthening the capacities of equality actors" of the Priority Solidarity Fund "Women for the future in the Mediterranean" funded by the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and led by the European Institute of the Mediterranean, in the framework of the project “Developing Women's Empowerment” labelled by the Union for the Mediterranean.
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