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Activists see addition of 15% women’s quota in governorate councils as ‘new victory’

By Rana Husseini - Aug 20,2015 - Last updated at Aug 20,2015

Deputies discuss the draft decentralisation law during a Lower House session this week (Petra photo)

AMMAN — Women’s rights activists on Thursday hailed the Lower House’s decision to designate a 15 per cent quota for women in governorate councils under the decentralisation bill as “a new victory” for the movement.

However, activists were quick to say that this was not enough and that they were eager that it will increase in the future.

On Tuesday, MPs discussed elected governorate councils, cancelling a provision that allows the appointment of 25 per cent of the council, which serves as the area’s elected local parliament. 

Instead, they installed a 15 per cent women’s quota based on a request by Jerash 1st District MP Wafaa Bani Mustafa.

“This is a big victory for women because this is the first time that a quota is being approved from within the Lower House itself, since the government did not include any quota in the bill despite demands from the women’s movement,” Bani Mustafa told The Jordan Times.

She made the proposal of 25 per cent quota for women in writing and submitted it one day before the Tuesday debate.

“The MPs said that 25 was a lot and decided to decrease it to 15 and the suggestion was approved by the majority of the Lower House,” Bani Mustafa explained.

She said the Lower House joint panel, made up of its legal and administrative committees, and members of the Jordanian Women Parliamentarians Forum played a major role in supporting the suggestion, which led to its endorsement.

“There was a group of deputies, including 11 women, who strongly supported my suggestion and I believe this is one main reason why it passed,” added Bani Mustafa, who won her seat outside the women’s quota in the Lower House, stated.

Secretary General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women (JNCW) Salma Nims said the decision was a “good first step, but we are eager to have it reach 30 per cent”.

“We have lobbied for the inclusion of a women’s quota in the decentralisation bill, but the government ignored our demands. Having the Lower House approve it without the government’s suggestion was a good step,” Nims told The Jordan Times.

She said the hope is to have “a process of incremental increase in the women’s quota that will lead to an increase in women’s presence in legislative bodies”.

The JNCW held several meetings with civil society and deputies to raise awareness about the draft decentralisation law and called on the government to include a minimum 30 per cent quota for women.  

The commission also sent a list of demands related to the bill to Parliament. 

President of the Jordanian Women’s Union Tahani Shakhshir said the 15 per cent quota was “a positive move but the hope is for women to win without a quota” with a minimum of 30 per cent representation.

But executive director of the Taqaddam Platform — a citizen-driven platform advocating for positive social, political and economic change — Sahar Aloul, disagreed, saying that the move was not enough.

“There was a proposal by the women’s movement to have a quota of 30 per cent, to be later increased to 50 per cent, but it never made it to the proposed legislation,” Aloul told The Jordan Times.

“Our ultimate goal was to have an equal representation of men and women in Parliament and the 15 per cent comes below expectations,” she added. 

“I don’t see it as a fair representation for women in Jordan and we will continue our work and demands, and will rejoice when women are given full political rights and are represented fairly.”

The government had said the draft decentralisation law was extensively discussed with citizens, and reiterated the bill’s’ “immense” contribution to the democratisation process.

The government says the draft law translates the Royal vision on decentralised local government into practical steps to enable municipalities and governorate councils to improve their performance and upgrade the quality of their services.

The government’s decentralisation plan is aimed at engaging people in policy and decision making related to their areas as well as achieving sustainable and comprehensive local development.

Once the decentralisation bill is passed by the Lower House, it will be referred to the Senate for debate and endorsement. 

“We will follow up on the bills and lobby in the Senate, and we hope that the women’s movement will also push for it to pass,” Bani Mustafa said.

 

Nims added that the JNCW has already started contacting senators and will hold meetings to lobby for the quota to remain. 

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