Mossawa Center holds meeting for potential female candidates in Israeli local elections - مركز مساواة لحقوق المواطنين العرب في اسرائيل

Mossawa Center holds meeting for potential female candidates in Israeli local elections

On Tuesday, January 31st the Mossawa Center held a meeting for potential female candidates for the Israeli municipality elections which take place this October. Arab women from all regions of Israel including mixed cities came to Haifa to hear from a panel on elections and the work as an elected official on a local level. This is part of Mossawa Center’s initiative, Mahha-li (Arabic for my place and locality) which was started in 2021, to get more women elected to office and to see small, incremental change on a local level. Arabs in Palestine lack behind their Jewish counterparts and the Western world when it comes to women in positions of political power. While Arab women can be school principals and heads of hospitals, the glass ceiling is still intact in the political sphere which is still seen as a man’s domain. Moreover, this meeting focused on local elections, because for Arab citizens of Israel local elections are deemed more important as they usually generate a higher turnout at the voting posts throughout the country, hence there’s a higher degree of importance due to the greater responsibility put on the shoulders of the candidates running for office.

More than 45 women showed up and discussed politics. Ghadir Hani, Maha-li project coordinator, spoke about her experience in recruiting women for decision making positions, and making impactful participation. Judith Steilmach, program director at the Fredreich Ebert Foundation talked about the Foundation's role in encouraging social justice among marginalized communities, and emphasized the importance of political decision-making to ensure the inclusion of women in all decision-making positions in elected and professional institutions.

Suha Salman Mousa, executive director of Mossawa led a panel discussion that had Dr. Maha Karkabi, Dr. Nuha Bader and Kholoud Masalha as speakers. Dr. Karkabi is an academic and lecturer at Ben-Gurion University in the sociology and anthropology department. Her research focuses on women’s integration into local government in Israel and their ability to generate change which she discussed in the meeting as it aimed to encourage and support women to get into local government. Her research shows that Arab women have much less representation in localities than their Jewish counterparts and that while 14 Jewish women are heads of municipalities not a single Arab woman has risen to that position. However, fractures in the patriarchal system have started to show since 2018 where 19 Arab women were elected into municipal offices. Dr. Bader is a council-member and deputy mayor of Maghar, an Arab village. She discussed the challenges she faced as a woman in position of power in the government and her success in forming coalitions in the council and rising to the position of deputy mayor despite sexist pushback. Dr. Bader emphasized how a woman has to work 10 times harder than a man to make it in politics. Masalha is an editor at Bokra (Arabic for tomorrow), an online platform,  and she discussed the issues women face when it comes to the media and how the women she tries to interview tend to fall into perfectionist traps where they do not speak on subjects they are not experts on and are not as open with their opinions as men. She provided participants with the dos and don’ts of interacting with the media and other helpful tips.

After the speakers finished their presentations, the participants raised questions about different issues such as fundraising and how to get support from their families, communities, towns etc. to run for office. There was also discussion on how Mahha-li and Mossawa can better build a support system for these women during the elections and beyond in a way the women themselves see fit. Mahha-li’s opening meeting in 2023 was productive and successful, having high turnout and lots of engagement from participants.  


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