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The Women’s Forum on Political Participation: The Palestinian Territories

Greetings!

I’d first like to introduce myself. My name is Georgina and I am currently the Communications intern at UNA-GB. The other interns and I will be updating this blog over the summer.

Continuing in the same vein as Hannah and Christina, I will be focusing on the Women’s Forum Panel, specifically on Political Participation in the Palestinian Territories.

Ms. Marleen Bisharah Suleiman Nazzal, General Director of Advocacy, Media, and Communications Directorate, Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Ramallah was the panelist from the Palestine Territories. At the July 1 event, she spoke at length about the status of women and the political climate in the territories.

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs aims to provide assistance to women and children as well as the poor in society. It also encourages other government ministries to attend to the needs of poverty-affected populations by offering training, assistance, and employment. A number of international aid organizations also provide assistance to the poor in Palestine in the form of emergency aid programs. Women’s organizations in the Territories offer a wide array of services, ranging from lobbying and advocacy work to training and psychological counseling.

Violence against women and children is extensively reported by local women’s institutions and the Press and seems to increase during times of political and economic turmoil in the territories. Currently there are no laws or provisions specifically created to protect women against domestic violence; however, violence is punishable, whether it is perpetrated against males or females, and women can use such provisions to access the judicial system and law enforcement.

Ms. Nazzal emphasized that political will is a significant factor in addressing violence against women and children. Unless violence against women stops, women won’t be full members of society.

She pointed out that despite the current “delicate” political situation in the Palestine territories; there has been visible progress in women’s status in politics due to official support.

Currently, there are women serving in municipalities, five have been appointed as ministers. There is also an established quota wherein 20% of the local council should be comprised of women as well as other important positions held by females including Dr. Laila Ghannam, the first lady to occupy the post of Governor of the Palestinian Territories. Ms. Nazzal explained the imperative need to build on this progress.

Ms. Nazzal also mentioned that the Ministry has implemented a national media campaign to create awareness as well as encourage women to participate in the political process (particularly running for political office).

Political support is extremely important in the Palestinian territories because despite what is achieved, the gains will not be significant without supportive leadership to champion women’s causes.

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs has worked tirelessly from its offices in Ramallah as a networking body engaged in monitoring and ensuring accountability, following up on legal issues, and working for the defense of women’s rights and their interests. It has succeeded in building a wide network of relations on the local, regional and international fronts, and has participated in many international conferences on subjects related to women’s issues and human rights.

Signing Off!

Georgina

The Women’s Forum on Political Participation: Ukraine

My name is Christina and I’m a Programs and Membership intern this summer at the UNA-GB. I am from New York and currently attend Boston College as an undergraduate student studying International Studies and Hispanic Studies.

On July 1st, I attended the Women’s Forum Panel on Political Participation and was very impressed by the panelists’ experiences as well as their knowledge of women in politics in their home countries. Ella Lamakh from Ukraine especially stood out to me and I would love to share a few of the issues she spoke about.

Director of Family Affairs and Gender Policy Department, Ministry for Family, Youth and Sport, Ella is originally from Ukraine and focused on women in Ukrainian politics today and what is being to done to increase that participation.

She started off explaining that legislation on gender equality does exist in Ukraine. However, even though the legislation is written it is not regularly enforced in the country. The predominately male parliament and the surviving Soviet mentality continue to prevent Ukrainian progress in gender equality. The Soviet stereotype of women belonging in the home persists in Ukraine and is further reinforced by the media. Even the Ukrainian Prime Minister, Mykola Azarov, has recently made remarks stating that women are inept at holding positions in high political offices and ought to stay in the kitchen. (Guardian.co.uk)

Although this stereotype is prevalent, 60% of Ukraine’s local councils, which are unpaid positions, are composed of women. However, there are only 7% of women in the paid national Ukrainian council. These statistics show the difficulties in increasing women’s political participation in high political offices.

In an effort to change the mentality towards women in office, Ella explained that she is involved with a campaign to stop violence against women, which encompasses an emergency hotline and anti-violence training programs.

Thank you, Ella, for enlightening us on the social attitudes that make it difficult for women to be elected. We hope that this will change in the near future due to people like you.

Thank you!

Christina

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