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More than 1,000 women running in Palestinian elections

October 18th, 2012
05:33 PM ET

By Samuel Burke & Claire Calzonetti, CNN

This Saturday, Palestinians in the West Bank will hold elections for the first time in six years, voting for municipal leaders.

It takes place against a backdrop of a deep sense of frustration with the split between Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah, the stalled economy, and the stalemate with Israel over final statehood.

What's so unusual about this election is the number of women running. 

Maysoun Qawasmi is leading the first all-female independent ticket, their slogan: 'by participating, we can'.

She is one of more than 1,000 women running in municipal elections in Palestinian elections.

“We need a lot and we need to work ten times more than any of the men in the campaigns,” she told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

In the conservative city of Hebron in the West Bank, it's unusual to find a Palestinian woman with a job, let alone in a position of political leadership.

But that's exactly what Qawasmi is trying to change.

“What I’m trying to do now is bring a change in a positive way and show that women must be the decision makers because they understand the municipality.”

Right now her campaign signs don’t even show her picture.

“A strong women can brings rights for the society,” Qawasmi says. She feels attitudes have already started changing from the time she started her campaign.

“The first day they told me, ‘Are you crazy? What are you doing?’ but then when they heard me on the local radio they understood my issues. They’re talking with me live in the radio and they’ve told me they understand me now.”

She believes the electorate realized she wants more than just women’s rights. She says she also wants more services for the municipality and more rights for the society at large.

When she began the campaign she said people warned her husband would take a second wife because she was neglecting her duties at home.

But she says in the Arab World a woman couldn’t run with a husband who gives her support.

“He told me ‘You are strong, go and I will support you everywhere.’”

Her husband and five children have been pitching in at home while she’s campaigning.

Qawasmi says her son gave her one of the best pieces of advice for her run for office.

He came to her and said people in Hebron and the Palestinian Territories may not respect her campaign, but he told her, “History will be respect you for what you’re doing for the women in Arab World.

Palestinian credit crunch 

soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Ned

    Palestinian women are among the strongest and smartest in the Arab world, and actually some of the strongest women in the western world in medicine, law, business are Arabs Palestinians. You can see from this interview the level of conviction and confidence she has! Good luck and go for it! Wishing you and Palestine highest success!

    October 18, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Reply
    • Sidearm

      They are certainly the most obese women in the Arab world.

      October 19, 2012 at 1:07 am | Reply
    • Thinker23

      "Palestinian women are among the strongest and smartest in the Arab world..."

      It's one of the wonders of the Israeli "occupation" and "apartheid" giving women equal rights with men.

      October 19, 2012 at 6:08 am | Reply
      • Freethep4

        @Thinker23

        Funny sarcasm. The Palestinians do live under a brutal military occupation that does have a system of apartheid in the West Bank. Not an opinion but fact. As a result , many Palestinians realize the importance of education to better themselves despite limited options and Israel's attempts to prevent them from getting an education Ex:School closers, shutting down universities, prevent children from reaching school at checkpoints, prevent school material from entering, and the latest delaying SAT test so Palestinians will have a harder time applying to American universities. The Palestinians in general are well educated because most of the worlds Palestinians live outside of Palestine.

        October 19, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  2. Man

    WOMEN IN ISALM:
    FATIMA
    AYEHS
    KHADIJA
    JUVERIA
    RAZI SULTANA

    NOW NEW:
    Benazir Bhutto
    Khalida Zia
    Shek Hasina
    Mega wati Sukhanoputri
    Tansu Penbe Çiller
    ALL of them MUSLIM FEMALES head of their NATIONS.
    NAME one US FEMALE PRESIDENT.
    ANGELA, MARGERETH AND JULIA are just an exception for Christians

    October 19, 2012 at 2:42 am | Reply
    • luk

      very interesting comment; however no one of them is Arab and 4 out of five are daughter/wife of previous Presidents; anyway, if the point is that many Muslim women are strong and intelligent and fit to lead a nation, I agree completely; almost all the Arabs and many many Muslims, including the Prophet, would not.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:42 am | Reply
  3. objectivity ..

    To call this an election is an overstatement. In the PA there are no free elections ever since Hamas won in 2006, and in the aftermath they took over Gaza violently ... So this is pretty much a race between Fatah , and Fatah affiliates..
    So it doesn't matter how many women, or how many people run for office, but the fact that this is just not a free election...

    October 19, 2012 at 7:04 am | Reply
  4. Garamasala

    Bravo paelstinians

    October 19, 2012 at 10:09 am | Reply

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