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Empowerment conference champions women’s political participation

By Rana Husseini - Oct 22,2019 - Last updated at Oct 22,2019

AMMAN — Former Kosovo president Atifete Jahjaga on Tuesday met with Jordanian women leaders and legislators to exchange views and experiences on ways to empower women in the political sphere.

"Globally, the political history of many countries is dominated by male leaders and politicians, while the role of women in decision-making positions has been overshadowed and diminished for centuries," Jahjaga said.

The former president added: "Not because we are not capable of achieving the same success as men, but because we have not had the same opportunities as men to prove themselves in such roles".

Jahjaga's remarks were made during a one-day conference titled "Empowering Jordanian Women’s Participation in 2020 Elections and Combatting Violence against Women" which was organised by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and funded by USAID.

Jahjaga was the first female President of the Republic of Kosovo, the first non-partisan candidate and the youngest female head of state elected to top office. She served as Deputy Director of the Kosovo Police, holding the rank of major general, the most senior among women officers in Southeastern Europe, according to online sources.

"Most of us, including myself, came from patriarchal societies that have pre-assigned roles for men as the primary leaders and women as the primary care-givers," Jahjaga stressed.

These notions about gender roles, the former president maintained, have been passed on from generation to generation, "and are deeply engraved in the way we see our society and the world overall". 

"Starting from our upbringing, boys are encouraged to be brave and follow their passions, while girls are taught to follow the norms and not to deviate from what makes up a good girl," Jahjaga added. 

Meanwhile, Senator Rabha Dabbas said women's progress in the political field is “very slow”.

"I believe part of the problem is that women do not trust themselves or their peers," Dabbas said.

She added that another problem is that the number of women assigned to leadership positions in Jordan remains low.

"We have to ask ourselves if we are there just to add numbers or if we should really be treated as equals and assume 50 per cent of the positions," Dabbas said.

MP Sabah Alshaar said she came from a small village where the idea of a woman serving in Parliament was “almost impossible”.

"I ran four times before finally being elected for the Lower House. I never gave up and every time, the number of people who voted for me increased. This was my inspiration and what kept me going," Alshaar added.

Earlier in the day, NDI Senior Country Director Arianit Shehu addressed the conference, saying he was hopeful the event would "continue to help women work on changing their lives for the better".

Shehu added that men should play an important role by taking part in women's advancement to assume more leadership roles within their own communities.

Director of Democracy, Rights and Governance at USAID Emily Krunic, who also addressed the gathering, emphasised that the United States and Jordan have for years maintained a “strong partnership” in advancing women’s empowerment and their participation in politics.

 "We have a shared belief that when women participate in decision-making processes, we can expect more inclusive, more credible policies as a direct result," Krunic stressed.  

The USAID official said she was hopeful that the "critical conversation" during Tuesday's conference ahead of the 2020 elections will help the participants to come up with ways both to encourage women’s political participation and effectively address the barriers to it.      

MP Wafa Bani Mustafa concluded the session by stressing the need to ensure an equal representation for women in Jordan in legislative and leadership positions.

"We should also draft friendly laws that support women in society and implement clear strategies and plans to combat political violence against women," Bani Mustafa said.

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