MIFTAH conducts exchange visit between members of local councils and women activists in the Jericho/Jordan Valley district and Hebron and town hall meetings in the Gaza Strip
July 16, 2022

Ramallah – 2/7/2022 – As part of its Good Governance and Democracy Program, MIFTAH recently conducted an exchange visit between the Hebron and Jericho/Jordan Valley districts, in a bid to exchange expertise and focus on the success stories of female local council members and community activists. The visit was also an opportunity to hear about the challenges women in decision-making positions face and the extent of their political participation.

MIFTAH field consultant in Hebron, Maysoun Qawasmi, said this was the first exchange visit for activists from Jericho and the Jordan Valley to Hebron. The women were received by several organizations with whom they discussed the importance of women’s participation and involvement in activities within civil society institutions and the need for these institutions to respond to women’s community needs and priorities. Qawasmi said the meeting allowed the women the opportunity to discuss the challenges they face within an economic-political context and the mechanisms needed to address them.

“Israeli occupation policies and the reality they create on the ground, limit women’s political participation, especially in areas targeted by Israeli army and settler attacks,” Qawasmi maintained. This intersects with cultural norms, traditions and stereotypes about women’s participation and with the weakness of political parties. Over and above, unemployment rates have accelerated and economic conditions have deteriorated in Palestine, all of which pose challenges to the integration of women and youth in political and community action.”

The second visit was to the town of Tafouh where the women were received by local council members in the Hebron district, in addition to members of the Tafouh council and other organizations. The women spoke about the challenges the councilwomen face, mostly the lack of knowledge on municipality laws and the nature of municipal work. The women spoke about their marginalization in a male-oriented society and how they are not afforded their rightful roles in the council. The women also highlighted some of their councilwomen’s success stories.

MIFTAH’s field consultant in the Jericho/Jordan Valley district, Najat Ermeileh, stressed on the importance of the visit, which included women activists and council members from Jiftlik, Fasayel, Oja and Nuweima, in addition to Diyuk, Ein Sultan and Jericho. She said there needed to be more exchange visits between activists from various districts so the women could share experiences and learn about the other’s challenges and successes in local councils. This is over and above the challenges imposed by the legal system, pertaining to the electoral system and the Local Council Law, which MIFTAH, along with other CSOs, are working to amend.

Town hall meetings

MIFTAH also continued to organize several town hall meetings in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in cooperation with CSOs and grassroots organizations, in addition to local council members. The meetings were aimed at raising citizens’ awareness on issues such as political participation and the process of formulating public policies to foster a culture of democratic and civil values and integrating youth and women at the decision-making level.

MIFTAH’s head of office in the Gaza Strip, Shadia Al Ghoul, said the town hall meetings MIFTAH has conducted since 2003 address the following: introducing participants to the components of a state; presenting the experience of legislative and local elections; and offering a comprehensive explanation of the local and legislative elections law, the women’s quota and the concept of citizenship and its relation to political participation.

She added that the recent town hall meetings produced several recommendations, including: reaffirming the importance of raising awareness among youth and women to their role in decision making; the need for pressure on decision-makers to hold elections; to promote a culture of democratic and civic values and to integrate youth and women at the decision-making level; the importance of political participation of women as a human right, guaranteed by international agreements and conventions; the impact of political participation on national legislations, namely the declaration of independence charter and the Palestinian Basic Law and on the peaceful transition of power.

The recommendations also called for the continuation of regular town hall meetings and their expansion so that new sectors of women could be targeted and the concepts of democracy, citizenship and political participation could be further entrenched, spread and discussed. They also called for capacity-building training courses for women to create strong competitors to men in the political sphere, especially within political parties. Finally, the recommendations called for supporting young leaders and promoting their presence in political parties.