Yesterday, parliamentary elections were held in Albania. However, women’s diminishing role in politics was decided upon already in the beginning of the election campaign.
”Despite the advocacy conducted by civil society and promises from the leaders of political parties, the 30 percent gender quota for candidates’ lists wasn’t met” says Armela Bejko, Project Director for the Albanian women’s rights organisation Association of Women With Social Problems.
Prior to the official start of the election campaign, Albania’s three main political parties – the Socialist Party (SP), the Democratic Party (DP) and the Socialist Movement for Integration – all spoke of their positive view on gender equality and of the necessity of increasing women’s participation in decision-making. Therefore the lack of women candidates on the party lists came as quite a surprise, says Armela Bejko
Armela Bejko, Project Coordinator, Association of Women With Social Problems.
”The reality revealed that their promises were not serious and the lists reflected gender inequality and proved once again the discrimination and patriarchal attitudes of the political leaders. This was unexpected for the women’s movement and women in general, who have worked continously for the improvement of legal framwork on these issues and with encouraging women to be involved in politics on the local and national level.”
Instead of putting more women on their lists, the parties chose to pay the fines connected with not fulfilling the quota.
Ranked low on the lists
Many of the women who made it onto the lists are also ranked so low that they basically have no chance to get into parliament. And not many of them have run any campaign of their own.
”Women candidates for MPs (Members of Parliament) generally have supported the top candidates on their lists. Partly this can be explained by the fact that you vote for the political party and not the specific candidates. But it also reflects women’s limited power and independence within their own parties” says Armela Bejko.
Important for EU
Sunday’s elections were marred by a shooting near a polling station in the northern city of Lac, where a candidate for the Democratic Party was wounded and an opposition supporter was killed. A tragedy in itself, this, together with an election campaign characterized by political tension and hostile comments between opponents, is a clear problem for a country trying to show its readiness to join the European Union. According to Armela Bejko, the election process is seen as a key test of the democratic progress in Albania and a determining factor in the country’s efforts to take its seat in Brussels.
After polling stations closed, both the ruling Democrats and the Socialist opposition declared they had won, while an exit poll gave the opposition a nine-point lead, reports the Balkan Insight. So far the Central Electoral Commission, CEC, only has announced partial results representing less than two per cent of the national vote. These results put the left-wing opposition in the lead.
But no matter which party wins, the political participation of women seems to have lost. In the last election women recieved 15 percent of the seats in the parliament, and Armela Bejko is not optimistic regarding the outcome of this election.
”Analyzing the ranking of women candidates in the first places of the candidates’ lists we foresee a decrease of the number of women MPs” she says.
Badam Zari (right) campaigning ahead of the elections. Photo: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS
Badam Zari, a 40 year old Pakistani housewife, does what is but a dream for most of the Pakistani women: she is the first ever tribal woman in Pakistan to run for parliament.
Badam Zari is from the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA), a part of Pakistan which is in the hands of Taliban, where most women are uneducated and rarely allowed to leave the house without their husbands.
“I am extremely worried about tribal women, most of who stay in their houses, which has prevented them from making any progress. I want to reach the assembly to become a voice for women, especially those living in the tribal areas,” Badam Zari told on a press conference at the beginning of April. “This was a difficult decision, but now I am determined and hopeful society will support me.” At least she has the support of her husband, a teacher, who accompanied her when she announced her candidacy. She claims that she is not afraid and has not yet received any threats of Islamist militants.
Although all adults of FATA have a legal right to vote, many women were prevented from voting in the 2008 elections, as Taliban threatened tribesmen with bombing and other “severe punishments”, if they would not keep women away from the polling stations. If women are allowed to vote, they are expected to vote in accordance to men’s orders.
Pakistan was the first Muslim country with a woman, Benazir Bhutto, as head of state. Because of a quota system, women hold 16,3 percent of the parliament’s seats.
Badam Zari has not much chances to win, according to analysts, but whether she’ll win or not – she succeeded in breaking the taboo of women’s appearance in public. And, as a local politician said, her courageous candidacy is of enormous symbolic value.
Yesterday was election day in Macedonia. The picture shows Macedonian activists in the global manifestation One Billion Rising 2013. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna |Johanna Arkåsen
In the run-up to yesterday’s local elections in Macedonia, violence and political tension have increased. And women who involves politically meet tough resistance. “It’s a male dominated political culture” says Emilija Dimoska, The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation’s program officer.
Macedonia is characterized by political tensions between the two largest groups in the country, ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians. The two groups are largely segregated – they live in different neighborhoods, go to different schools and have different curricula. Since 2011 tensions have increased, with several outbreaks of violence, to an extent that the country has not seen since 2001 when armed ethnic conflict rose between the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA) and security forces in Macedonia.
Since 1999, The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation has an office in Macedonia, in the capital Skopje. Program officer Emilija Dimoska gives an explanation to the current turmoil.
“The situation erupted over the controversial appointment of former ethnic Albanian rebel commander Talat Xhaferi as Macedonia’s new defense minister. The demonstrations, which begun on March 1, were started by ethnic Macedonians furious at the appointment of the new defense minister,” Emilija Dimoska says.
Several women’s organisations in Macedonia are informing women about the importance of voting and getting involved politically. They have also built a partnership with politically active women, to support them. Furthermore, they assist policy makers with information about how the situation for women in the country.
Before the election, the organisation Women’s Center Kumanovo – run by twelve women’s organisations of various ethnic affiliations – has worked with lobbying to get more women interested in politics. Representatives of Women’s Center Kumanovo say that parts of the Macedonian population will abstain from taking part in the elections due to the bad economic situation, the high unemployment rate, low pensions and increased living expenses. They describes the social situation in Macedonia as disastrous.
“There is a democratic political crisis in the country, which is of course negative, and the issue is that voters can decide only between two political parties. Moreover, political issues need to be addressed within the Parliament, and not out of it.”
What are the main obstacles for women who want to engage politically?
“Women are slowly winning the requested percentage on the candidates’ lists; however it is necessary to work on improvement of their representation in the executive bodies of the party where there are fewer women, both at local and national level.”
To get more women to vote and engage in politics, Women’s Center Kumanovo try to strengthen women and increase their presence in public. They also try to increase their debating and argumentation skills.
What do you think about the election? What are your hopes and fears?
“In our view, the 2013 Elections are essential for the public and the international community’s perspective about Macedonia’s EU accession. We hope the campaign will be fair and democratic and that the will of the people will win. Our fear is related to the different irregularities that might occur in certain areas of Macedonia,” representatives of Women’s Center Kumanovo say.
Emilija Dimoska explains that there are several obstacles for women’s participation in the elections, such as the existing gender stereotypes both in the society and among political parties’ structures.
“It’s a male dominated political culture including the lack of support of the political parties for women candidates, which is also evident during the pre-election campaign in which a very little space is given to the female candidates; and the lack of support to women by the public in general,” she says.
How engaged are women in general in the election?
“From the most recent list presented, the number of candidates running for mayors throughout Macedonia is 286 candidates total, out of which 28, or 10 percent, are women. At the moment, there are no female mayors in Macedonia. In addition, with very few exceptions, women in general have not been much visible during the pre-election campaign in Macedonia,” Emilija Dimoska says.
How are the women’s organisations working to make women more active in politics and vote?
“Women’s NGOs around the country implement activities promoting gender equality, including the importance of participation of women in politics that is crucial for building a democratic society.”
The ballots of the Kenyan general elections on March 4 are still being counted, but the election’s outcome for women is less unsure, as Kenya is a deeply patriarchal society. Until now, women had almost no say in politics.
The elections were the first ones held under the new constitution, which was passed in 2010. The constitution contains a provision that states that “not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender.” This should change political representation for women radically – as women must now form at least one-third of any elective public body. But in December 2012, the Kenyan High Court decided that this provision should first be effective after the elections.
Only one of eight presidential runners was female. And, according to opinion polls before the election, only about one percent of Kenyans would have voted for her. Politics is still regarded as the preserve of men – women in authority are still mainly regarded as a curse to the community and as violating the tradition. “Society sees our place being the kitchen and the bedroom. Nothing beyond there,” parliamentary candidate Sophia Abdi Noor told Reuters.
Threat and smear campaigns
Female candidates were threatened with rape and violence and found themselves subjected to smear campaigns aimed to destroy their reputation. The parliamentary candidate Alice Wahome, for example, found her hometown littered with condoms with her name on them in an attempt, blamed on her main male rival, to portray her as promiscuous and thus not trustworthy.
Many women look with envy to Rwanda, where more than half of legislators are women, more than anywhere in the world.
But there is also a ray of hope: Before the March 4 elections, the two-thirds gender equilibrium had already been implemented in some offices: one-third of the members of the Supreme Court, the commission on revenue allocation, the commission for the implementation of the constitution and the salaries and remuneration commission were female.
Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation / Johanna Wassholm
Today, parliamentary elections are hold in Jordan. When it comes to women’s political representation everything can only get better, as there is not one woman in the present provisional government.
Today’s elections are early elections, King Abdullah II dissolved the parliament last fall, a common phenomenon in Jordan politics. According to the new election law, which is the result of two years demands for reform, are 15 of the 150 seats in parliament reserved for female candidates. This is an increase of three seats compared to the last election in 2010 and can be regarded as a tiny success. At the same time the total number of seats in parliament has increased, so the quota of 10 percent is still the same. The women’s rights movement in Jordan is not content with this low number and, since the last election, has been calling for 30 percent of the seats should go to women.
There is hope for a few more women to get into parliament after today’s election, as two women are number one on their respective parties lists and a couple more women have a chance of getting enough votes of their own to be elected. The number of women to stand for election is higher than ever before. Out of about 1400 candidates, 215 are women.
Family voting is common
But even if women will be represented with more than 15 percent in the parliament after the election, the view on women as political actors won’t change over night. Many still think that politics is off-limits for women and neither men nor women vote in a larger extend for female candidates. The so-called family voting is also common in Jordan, especially outside the capital Amman.
Layla Hamarne from The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation’s partner organization ‘Arab Women’s Organization’ works for advocating women’s political participation. She doesn’t believe that many women will decide for themselves for whom they will vote. “I think it is very uncommon for women to vote independently, except for intellectuals and people in the bigger cities, “she says.
It is the paterfamilias, safeguarding the families’ or the clans’ interests, who decides whom the rest of the family shall vote for. The lack of possibility to vote independently makes it difficult for women to vote for candidates who want to strengthen women’s power and influence in society.
The big question is though: Will this play a role? Discontentment is widespread amongst voters as well as political parties. The claim for political reform has been loud since the Arab Spring started to spread two years ago, and even though there are some changes for the better, the situation is still far from being satisfying for the majority of the population. There was only a minimal response to the demand of a modernized and more democratic electoral law, and therefore some opposition parties boycott the election, amongst them the influential Muslim Brotherhood and some leftist parties.
A low voter turnout is expected; in Amman no more than 30 percent of the voters are anticipated to show up at the poll places. In public opinion, the candidates are the same who have been sitting in parliament for many years. Many corruption cases, apparently an inevitable part of the Jordanian power structure, chipped away at their reputation and they are not regarded as being able to bring about change. ‘They are all corrupt’, is a usual statement. Few people think that a new parliament will do something against the high living costs in the country or widen the freedom of speech, two questions which are pivotal in Jordanian politics right now – or should be pivotal, in the people’s opinion.
Text: Johanna Wassholm
working for the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation in Amman, Jordan
Translation: Katharina Andersen
Nabila Espanioly: feminist leaders in the Knesset!
Today, parliamentary elections are held in Israel. One of the candidates is the Palestinian women and peace activist Nabila Espanioly. She is determined to stand up for women’s, children’s, Palestinian’s and minorities rights, even though the political climate in Israel is increasingly toughening.
The general elections on January 22 take place in a country more and more dominated by ultra nationalistic and religious forces. During the last years, the democratic space for maneuver has shrunk, e.g. through laws restricting human rights organizations’ possibilities to receive financial support from foreign countries, or laws forbidding to advocate for a boycott of Israel or restricting public support for activities denying that Israel is a ”Jewish and democratic state”. This makes work difficult for mainly women’s rights activist, peace activists and –parties and left wing organizations. ”The political climate in Israel is very difficult and challenging. All Gallup polls indicate a right wing majority in the election, the question is how strong they will be”, says Nabila Espanioly.
Nabila Espanioly is the founder and leader of The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation’s partner organization Al Tufula in Nazareth. Now she is running as no. five for Hadash, a party for Jewish and Palestinian Israelis. This is her first serious attempt to win a seat in parliament, but Nabila Espanioly is by no means a newcomer in politics. The questions she wants to drive in parliament are the same she has been fighting for in the last forty years: peace in the region, poverty reduction, unrecognized villages and women’s, children’s and Palestinian’s security, amongst others. ”I have always been political active and felt responsible for trying to create new possibilities for children, women and Palestinians – that’s why I decided to run for office”, she says.
Those who work against discrimination of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are constantly challenged. In December 2012, the central election committee of Israel (CEC), which is dominated by right wing parties, decided to disqualify the only Palestinian woman in the Israeli parliament, Haneen Zoabi, to run in the upcoming election. Prior to that, Zoabi was accused by the governing party, Likud, of denying Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state, because her own party supports ”a state for all his citizens” and by taking part in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in May 2010 she herself ”had supported terrorism”. Israel’s High Court decided later that Zoabi’s disqualification was against constitutional law.
According to Maayan Dak, who works at The Kvinna till Kvinna’s partner organization Coalition of Women for Peace, Haneen Zoabi is exposed to severe political persecution. ”She constantly gets sexist comments, referring to her personal life, her age and the fact that she – god forbid – is a powerful single woman.”
In Nabila Espanioly’s opinion the incident around Haneen Zoabi is one of several examples of the right-wing parties’ political strategy to question the Palestinians’ legitimacy in the Knesset. ”Right-wing parties try to impair the influence of Palestinian leaders in the parliament. They regard our party, which welcomes both Palestinians and Israelis, as the most dangerous party in Israel,” she says.
Despite the circumstances Nabila Espanioly won’t be silenced. ”I’ll always say what I think. I’ll continue my fight for peace and women’s rights, Palestinians and marginalized groups, even if it costs me dear – I’ve paid the price before and I’m willing to do so again in the future.”
The forgotten occupation
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for general elections in Israel last fall. The elections were planned to take place in October 2013, but political friction about the national budget got Netanyahu to call for early elections. The question of Israel’s occupation of Palestine fell off the agenda, especially during the election campaign. “The occupied Palestinian territories used to be a major issue few years ago, for both right and left wing parties. But now the occupation has disappeared from the public discourse”, says Maayan Dak, from the Coalition of Women for Peace.
Likewise not discussed is the link between poverty – which concerned many Israelis during the wave of protests for social justice – and the occupation’s economy .
Disregarded or forgotten is also the question of marginalized group’s representation in politics. Even parties who have a balanced representation of women and men avoid to put marginalized women, Mizrahi-Jewish activists or Palestinians on their list, according to Maayan Dak.
According to Anna Björkman, The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation‘s coordinator for Israel and Palestine, it is likely that religious and ultra national parties will be successful in the elections. They have already influenced the Israeli society, not least the situation for women. Last year, Israeli media repeatedly mentioned incidents where women had been harassed because they had been wearing “provocative clothes”. One extreme example was the attack of ultra orthodox men on an eight year old girl in a bus, because she was wearing shorts. “Segregation in Israel gets more and more obvious and the election will largely be about in which society the Israelis want to live: A more secular and democratic or a more conservative one”, says Anna Björkman.
Nabila Espanioly is certain to win a seat in the Knesset. If her party won’t win five seats, some of the candidates placed higher on the list will give way, so that women will be represented. Before we hang up on the crackling line between Israel and Sweden, she says that it is important with international solidarity, especially among women’s organizations. “We need all support we can get to be able to continue to fight, we need a solidarity movement,” she says.
Text: Karin Råghall
Translation: Katharina Andersen
Late October, a new government was approved by the newly elected Georgian parliament. Many analysts call this a historical election – for the first time ever Georgia experienced a peaceful transition of power. And three of the key positions within the government went to women.
The incumbent President Michal Saalashvili congratulated the newly elected Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili to his victory. The elections were preceded by a dynamical campaign period, mostly concentrated around these two men’s personalities. When it comes to women’s participation, however, from the moment of registration of party lists and candidates for majoritarian elections, it was clear that there would be no breakthrough in terms of gender balance. Yet, there have been some positive developments.
In relative terms, it sounds great – the share of women MPs has risen with 60 percent in the Georgian parliament. But they still are only 10,8 percent, compared to the previous 6,6 percent, the lowest rate in Europe. The number of women in the newly elected cabinet is unchanged – three women out of 20. The good news is though that the women occupy key positions within the government, Maia Panjikidze as a head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tea Tsulukiani of the Ministry of Justice and Khatuna Gogoladze of the Ministry of Environment.
Financial incentive no effect
Elena Ruseckaja from the Georgian women’s rights organization Women’s Information Center is happy about the increase of women in parliament, but says that she and her colleagues analyze the results, to draw lessons for the future. For instance had the recent amendments, providing parties with financial incentive to have no less than 20 percent of women on party lists, no effect.
Elena Ruseckaja, Women's Information Center. Photo: Julia Lapitskii/The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.
– This opportunity was only used by two parties: the Christian Democrats and the New Party and they were not even elected to the parliament. Thus, the efforts of the international community and women’s organizations in this direction have not played a role.
What did play a role, according to Elena Rusetskaja, was direct interaction with the parties and support for women candidates.
– Women’s groups had meetings and discussions with the parties, and the majority of women that were elected to the parliament are known to us. Many of them have their background in civil society, such as Manana Kobakhidze, deputy speaker of the new parliament and the former chairman of the organization Article 42 of the Constitution (Georgian citizenship: fundamental rights and freedoms).
First democratic transfer of power
For the first time in the history of independent Georgia, the transfer of power took place in a democratic way, and several political branches are now represented in the parliament:
– We see it as a positive development, that we now have a multi-party parliament, which opens up for constructive cooperation. We will monitor how they are living up to their obligations and follow the implementation of the Gender Equality Law, the Law on Domestic Violence, the National Action Plan for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. We hope to be able to advocate for changes in the Labor Code, because now it has loopholes that makes it possible to discriminate against women in the workplace. In addition, we very much hope that a Gender Advisory Board of the parliament will play a major role in achieving equality at all levels of the government. The gender thinking should permeate all state institutions, says Elena Ruseckaja.
Hope for resolution of frozen conflicts
There is also hope for a peaceful resolution of the frozen 20-year old conflicts concerning Abkhazia and the South Ossetia/Tskhinvali region. This issue has disappeared from the political discussions during the last few years, but now parties actively put these questions on the agenda.
– Parties that are new to the political arena are striving for the resumption of economic and cultural relations with the Abkhaz and South Ossetian population. Guram Odisharia, an IDP (internally displaced person), was appointed Minister of Culture and Monument Protection. We believe there will be people in the government who have close ties with Abkhazia. The Geneva talks will certainly be changing format, but we hope that the 40 percent women participants in the Georgian delegation will not be reduced.
On October 1st parliamentary elections will be held in Georgia. Currently there are only 6.6 percent women representatives in the Georgian parliament, the lowest number in all of Europe.
− To achieve long-term stability in Georgia, it is crucial to include more women in the decision-making processes, says Alla Gamakharia from the women and peace organization Cultural-Humanitarian Fund Sukhumi, based in Kutaisi.
Between 2006 and 2011 Georgia fell from place 59 to place 120 in The Global Gender Gap Index concerning women’s political participation. To reverse this negative trend, the Georgian government in December 2011 adopted a law amendment stating that the stately support to political parties will be increased if they have at least 20 percent women candidates on their party lists.
But this seems to have had little impact on the biggest rivals in the upcoming election. President Saakashvili’s party, United National Movement has 10.9 percent women among its candidates and billionaire Bidzina Ivanisjvilis party, The Georgian Dream (Kartuli Otsneba), has 16.5 percent.
Patriarchal norms and nepotism
The Georgian society is characterized by both patriarchal norms and nepotism. This drastically reduces the possibility of getting into politics without having an influential family behind you, especially if you’re a women. Discrimination against women is widespread and embedded in social structures, which limits the opportunities for women to pursue careers and participate in politics. Issues of gender equality and women’s rights are not high on the political agenda.
For Alla Gamakharia there is a clear relationship between the low percentage of women in parliament and other problem’s in Georgian society.
− A low representation of women leads to marginalization of issues concerning women’s situation in the country, which leads to inequality, human rights violations and social imbalances, says Alla Gamakharia.
International discussions important
Within the framework of the EU’s Eastern Partnership – which includes the EU and its six Eastern neighbors Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus – Georgia has committed itself to respecting the EU’s common values, including democracy and human rights. A commitment that, according to Lika Naidaraia from the Georgian women and peace organization Women’s Political Resource Centre, WPRC, could be crucial for future development in Georgia. She underlines the importance of the EU and the international community highlighting gender equality in political decision-making, when meeting with representatives of the Georgian government.
Election posters in Belgrade. The nationalist Kostunica only recieved about 7 percent of the votes in the first round of the Serbian presidential election and didn't move on to the second round. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation/Stina Magnusson Buur.
Last Sunday former nationalist leader Tomislav Nikolic was elected as Serbia’s new president. But a majority of the Serbs refrained from voting. And with the political parties only talking about women as mothers, women don’t have much hope of getting a government that deals with inequalities in the society.
According to the Serbian Electoral Commission official figures, Tomislav Nikolic of the Serbian Progressive Party got 49,7 percent of the votes in the second round of the presidential election. The Democratic Party’s candidate Boris Tadic, who won the first round, got 47 percent. That means revenge for the challenger Nikolic, who lost against Tadic in the presidential elections in 2004 and 2008.
But the turnout was low, only 46,3 percent of the Serbs voted.
- Many women I’ve talked to didn’t bother to vote, because they are tired of voting for the least bad candidate, says Stina Magnusson Buur, working for the women’s rights and peace organization The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation in Belgrade.
One positive thing with the election, she says, was a campaign that encouraged people to vote blank. A spontaneous grass-roots initiative, that grew significantly during the election campaign. In Belgrade, more than 5 percent voted blank.
- That is a strong message to the political leadership, that people are tired of the situation and want to see political alternatives.
Many voters also wrote messages on their blank notes. One of the messages read: “I want Tadic to go, but I do not want Nikolic instead”. A feeling shared by many Serbs. That the result should be interpreted as an increased Serbian nationalism is denied by Milica Gudovic from the women’s organization Zena na Delu. She means that it’s more a reaction to the financial instability in the country and to a government that hasn’t been able to deal with the high unemployment rates, problem’s within the healthcare system and corruption.
In the parliamentary elections, held on the 6th of May, Tomislav Nikolic’s Progressive Party won the most votes. But it is unclear what the government will look like, because the Democratic Party are likely to continue to cooperate with the Socialist Party, thus having a majority. Negotiations are underway.
No political will to change inequalities
If women have been mentioned at all during the election campaign, it has been in their role as mothers. There has also been a discussion about the law of quotas that should ensure that all electoral lists contain at least 30 percent of representatives of each sex. Tomislav Nikolic is said to have apologized to his male voters for the quota law. According to Stina Magnusson Buur, the political will to do something about inequality is virtually nonexistent.
- It’s rational for women not to vote, for no matter who they vote for it’s a party that sees women only as reproduction machines, she says.
EU membership at the top of the agenda
The neighboring Balkan countries has reacted differently to the election results. While politicians in Sarajevo, Bosnia, said that it didn’t mean that much, there were politicians in Kosovo who argued that Kosovo now must prepare for another war. But Serbian women that Stina Magnusson Buur has talked to do not believe there will be a renewal of the armed conflict. Instead they think that the question of an imminent EU membership will dominate the future political agenda. Nikolic has said he wants to continue to work to bring Serbia into the EU, but not at the expense of having to recognize Kosovo as an independent state.
- The women’s movement in Serbia, especially the Women in Black, tries to remind people that the EU is not the solution to everything. A fact that neighboring Greece is a good example of, says Stina Magnusson Buur.
Women in Black means that the EU adds to a kind of virtual reality in Serbia, where laws are being pushed through in order to reach EU standards. Meanwhile there has been no improvements for economically disadvantaged people and groups that are facing discrimination – including LGBT people and Roma – in the country.
She’s the first women in Egypt running for the country’s highest office, the presidency. But she’s doing it on her own, without any campaign funds and without believing herself that she has any chance.
- I’m glad that people don’t oppose me, says Buthania Kamel.
Buthaina Kamel is a busy woman. Just a few minutes before she’s supposed to appear on a TV show, she arrives at the reception of the network company where we’ve arranged to meet. Behind her trails a tail of journalists and photographers and before she has to disappear into the studio she sits down to host an improvised press conference.
- Our revolution is not finished, she says before any of us have had a chance to ask any questions.
- Still nothing has changed, she continues and elaborates on the military council governing the country since February, when Mubarak was forced to step down.
- We don’t trust them. They belong to the same regime as Mubarak.
Buthaina Kamel surrounded by journalists and activists during a visit in the activists tent camps outside the military council's headquarters. Photo: Maria Jansson.
We’re a couple of hundred metres away from the Tahrir square, where only a few days ago demonstrators died from tear gas and rubber bullets. Buthaina Kamel is also couching from inhaling to much tear gas and on her t-shirt are the words of the revolution printed: ”The military council must go”. She sees herself as a presidential candidate for the activists and devotes all her time to the revolution.
- We have a declared state of emergency and 16 000 people are awaiting trials in military courts. So the military is supposed to decide if the death shootings in the Tahrir square should be investigated, when they themselves were the perpetrators. Of course that will never happen. And the military council has yet to prove that they have any other intentions than to just remain in power, she says.
Famous radio host
Buthaina Kamel became famous through her own radio show where she was an outspoken host who allowed Egyptians to discuss subjects that were deemed taboo, like sex and abuse. The show only run for a few years before it was forced off the air, though it was said to give Egyptians a bad reputation.
Buthaina Kamel then transferred to TV and became one of the country’s most well known news anchors. But after the scandalous presidential election in 2005, she decided to leave journalism to become a political activist. Since then she’s been active in several different movements critical to the regime, and has publicly questioned the corruption and lack of legal security and freedom of speach for the people.
- I have to be a candidate, it’s more important than ever, she says and nods in the direction of the Tahrir square. Especially when religious and extremist parties are trying to take over the revolution. I have to stand on the opposite side of that.
- Also I want there to be a female candidate running and if you demand your rights, you yourself have do your part.
Scarce campaign funds
It’s been difficult for Buthania to get her campaign funded. As a female candidate she has few supporters and no party has reached out to her, to hear if she wants to be their candidate. And in contrast to for example the former IAEA president, Mohamed El Baradei, she doesn’t have a hord of young volunteers lining up to do campaign work for her.
The Muslim Brotherhood has clearly, on religious grounds, stated that a female president is unthinkable. Other sees her campaign as a way for Egypt to improve its reputation. But Buthania doesn’t want to speak of her role, or her experience as a female politician.
- I’m proud of the courage women showed during the revolution. We have proved to the ones who believe that we should stay at home, that we want something else and that they are wrong. Noone else is going to fight for our rights, we have to do it ourselves.
Long history of male leaders
The women who demonstrated during the revolution gained a new level of confidence, and the young women from rural areas who participated in the actions, went back home looking at themselves and their rights in a new light, Buthania says.
With a long history of ”strong” men ruling the country, it’s evident that the next president also will be a man. In fact the Egyptian constitution states that the president has to be married to ”an Egyptian woman”, not just ”an Egyptian”.
Before the interview I ask a group of men in a café what they think of the idea of a woman being president.
- Of course we could have a female president, they say, puffing on their water pipes and raising their eyebrows at each other, as if to say ”sure, everything’s possible”.
- But he has to be the best candidate, one of them says and the others nod in agreement.
- He has to be strong, the man continues and raises a clenched fist.
Glad to be accepted
But Buthania Kamel doesn’t think that being a women has rendered her any special opposition.
-Yes, we’re living in a traditional country, she says, fully aware of people’s expectations.
She doesn’t want to hazard a guess on her chances, but she’s certain that she won’t be elected.
- I’m happy that people accept me as a candidate, that they’re not shocked that there’s a woman running for president. They don’t have to vote for me. I’m glad that they don’t oppose or ignore me.