All-female bloc runs in Palestinian elections

A new group running for municipal elections in Hebron is offering residents an alternative to politics: Women at the helm, instead of men.

Updated: Sep 16, 2012, 10:22 AM IST

Hebron (West Bank): A new group running for municipal elections in Hebron is offering residents an alternative to politics as usual in the conservative West Bank city: Women at the helm, instead of men.

The all-female list, which is called "By Participating, We Can," is gearing up for next month`s vote with a campaign that aims both to win at the polls and to convince voters that women can lead just as well as men.

"Men here traditionally want their women to stay at home, and when they allow them to go out to work, they send them to do traditional jobs like teaching," said Maysoun Qawasmi, the 43-year-old group leader, who entered the race this week. "But we want them to go further, to work like men in all possible jobs they can."

The group is fielding 11 previously independent candidates for the October 20 vote. Should the bloc succeed in garnering significant public support, the women hope to ultimately unite and form an official political party.

But the women are well aware of the challenges they face in conservative Palestinian society, and the chances of an all-woman ticket performing well at the polls, for now at least, appear slim.

Qawasmi said the candidates are campaigning door-to-door to attract what they see as their natural electorate -- fellow women. If elected, Qawasmi promises to open women-only facilities, like a sports club -- an idea that has faced opposition by religiously conservative Muslims in Hebron who believe it is immodest for women to play sports.

She predicts her group could nab three out of the Hebron council`s 15 seats, and she has ambitious hopes that after the vote, when the council chooses the mayor, she will be selected for the post.

PTI