Five decades of political participation for women in Jordan failed at reflecting women and their social, educational, and economic achievements. Women are yet to be represented in governments, elected councils, unions, and political parties. The majority of women’s participation in the government is due to high-level directions instigating it, while their participation in the parliament and municipal councils is due to the quota system introduced through the temporary electoral law of 2003. The Jordanian National Commission for Women reports a “merely 28.76% of members of political parties are women.” However, it is estimated that the percentage will increase after the Royal Committee to Modernise the Political System’s Political Parties Law bill required 20% of founding members to be women.
The “Women and Political Parties: From Filling Gaps to the Light” discussion session was held by Al Nahda Women’s Network as part of the “Al Arba’tain” Meeting series. Attendees included the Jordanian Democratic People’s Party’s Secretary General, Abla Abu Olbeh, the National Coalition Party’s representative in the Parliament, MP Asmaa Rawahenh, former MP and Islamic Action Front’s Council Member, Dr Hayat Masimi.
The session came as part of the “New Generation” project and accordingly, discussed youth participation in political parties and aimed at promoting youth’s political and civil participation through dialogue and inter-generational communication, delivering their voices, and celebrating them on the International Youth Day on August 12th.
Commending their role in defending women’s rights, the session facilitator, Eman Abu Qaoud said: “we are proud to have such prominent actors today.” She expressed her hopes for an increased role for women in the coming period, especially with political parties working on regulating their situations to reflect the bill’s modernization in the coming elections.
Abla Abu Olbeh spoke about the role of political parties and said: “they helped establish the Women’s Union and promote women’s participation in unions. Parties influenced the feminist movement and women’s empowerment, albeit indirectly.” She stressed the importance of parties walking the talk when it comes to supporting women’s issues and adopting objective structured discourse that speaks to all women’s issues.
Abu Olbeh spoke about how participation in political parties requires a change in the Jordanians’ view of political parties and the historical relationship between the people and parties. For over 33 years, Jordan was ruled by Marital Law with the whole families of members of political parties punished with travel bans and exclusion from employment. Changing this culture is not achieved by solely changing laws, but by promoting the importance of political parties in schools and teaching them about the political national and Arab history.
Dr Hayat Masimi spoke about the importance of political reform as the guarantor of political parties’ existence and democratic political turnover. According to Masimi, the success of political parties is dependent on various factors such as the environment, the party’s mission and members, and most importantly, a program that speaks to and addresses the issues facing the country, women, youth, and workers.
Historically, women’s involvement in political parties had been costly. However, with the new bill and changed view of women’s party involvement, it is likely for women to succeed at challenging some’s exclusion attempts and reclaim their place. Family support is essential for women’s political success.
Asmaa Rawahenh said: “the coming stage requires preparation for a party period centered on the country and people’s interests and specific and time-bound objectives for their programs. Parties must be held accountable when mistaken. Women must have a true impact in political and party work, so they solve their own issues. Existing parties never truly adopted women’s issues but used them as mere mottos.”
She spoke about how women need to get involved in all national issues not only women-specific ones. With youth being the fruit of women’s care, it is important to ensure women are an essential part of leadership and politics and violence against them must be eradicated.
Secretary General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women, Dr Salma Nims highlighted the importance of ensuring the women’s electoral in national agendas and listening to women’s input on all issues. Nims noted the lack of real party agendas outside the capital and called for binding parties’ funding to empower their women and youth.
ARDD’s CEO Samar Muhareb said: “We realize the challenges facing party work and women and youth participation in civil and political work. We hope for the effectiveness of the new law supporting youth participation by pushing for institutionalization and the space for social organizing. We also hope for a change in the common belief of restricted freedom of public work and organizing. There should be a consideration for the possibility that institutionalization might restrict the flexibility of parties and organizations. Civil society organizations are working on this such as the “New Generation” project that aims at raising awareness about the importance of this change in our context. We encourage women and girls to get involved with us to push forward a truly democratic environment and the desired renaissance.”
Participants raised important points such as the importance of women raising their voices to gain further political benefits and increase their representation in the parliament and parties. They noted the need for more female leads regardless of their social status considering that even the capital lacks women’s representation which is limited to the elite. Finally, they stressed the importance of utilizing the current political will to involve youth in politics and help them prove themselves as leaders and change-makers.