By: Shara Jazzar
With the aim to increase the number of women elected officials and new appointees at the sub-national and administrational level who participate fully and equally, the Jordanian National Commission for Women (JNCW) – in partnership with Hivos and the support of the Dutch MFA – has invited representatives from diverse political parties in Jordan for a discussion, which seeks to come out with radio and TV messages that encourage women’s - as well as the youth’s - participation in political parties and political life in Jordan.
Even though only 16 Jordanian parties were represented during the three-day gathering, despite inviting all of them, the exchange was rich and intense. In order to show attendees the extent to which Jordanian women are underrepresented in politics, the introductory session relied on statistics to demonstrate that only 35.5 % of parties’ members are females, with only 3 women holding the position of Secretary General at the national scale. Furthermore, only 13.3 % participated in the parliamentary elections of 2016.
Fundamental problems at core of political parties
The participants highlighted that a number of women are registered in political parties only in order for the latter to reach the required quota to become officially recognized and start its activities. Thus, they are not active members and do not have any impact or say on decisions. Needless to say that they do not run for elections within their parties or hold any leadership position. Furthermore, one of the participants pinpointed that there is a problem related to the nature of political parties in Jordan, as “they are outdated and ruled by one group of people.” Also, the youth are afraid to become partisans because they might “not be granted a scholarship to attend university or lose the one they already have”. Additionally, young men and women might not be able to find a job if their employer finds out that they are affiliated to a party, as they will be considered trouble makers. Finally, partisans might be detained by the local authorities and subjected to interrogation on account of participating in political activities. This demonstrates that not only women struggle to get politically involved but also the youth.
However, when it comes to women in particular, the mentioned arguments are also reasons that push them towards joining civil society organizations, rather than political parties, as they are considered a “safer” space to play an active role in their community.
The need for change
To instill change, the first target of JNCW is to empower women in Jordan through informing them about the importance of political participation and the role they have to play for their sake and that of their children. Also, females must develop skills that are needed in politics, such as public speaking. The following step would be to increase their political participation by encouraging them to join political parties and have active roles in them. This can be further achieved by creating a suitable environment for them that respects their needs. Finally, once women have reached leadership, they will have the ability to lobby for gender-sensitive programs, laws and legislations in the parliament, which will enable other females to do the same.
In order to achieve that, both youth and women have to understand their rights and responsibilities as citizens. They should also become aware of the real role of political parties; that of lobbying in order to make change in society.
How to make change happen?
To start with, the internal legislations of political parties should be amended in a gender-sensitive manner. This would encourage more women to become members of parties. Also, curriculums should be adapted accordingly and portray the different roles of females, which encompass politics, economics and social development. Finally, the media – TV, radio and online – must support the change through educating women and the youth on the importance of taking part of the political life in Jordan by actively joining parties.
At the end of the meeting, participants filmed and recorded the message* they agreed upon in order to share it with the local media and encourage women to join a political party as a first step towards achieving change.
*Your political party affiliation is the onset of your political participation. Your conviction in the importance of political activism is the way towards political reform. Seek change and be up to the challenge. Take part in decision-making and make change. You have the freedom to participate and join a political party that invests in your capacities. You and me, uniting for effective political activism.