Family Representation Hinders Women’s Ture Presence in Kafr Nabl Local Council
Despite the criticism that women are still facing in Kafr Nabl, southern rural Idlib, for allegedly being too emotional in some of the decisions they make, they managed to preserve their participation and representation in the local council throughout the previous years.
In the past a few years, several civil society organizations appeared, aiming at empowering women, equipping them with skills and enhancing their role in society and participation in the decision-making process.
However, women’s leadership roles did not achieve marked progress, especially in political and field work, for their participation was limited to specific positions in the local councils in Northern Syria.
The statistics of “Citizens for Syria” Organization show that more than 25% of the organizations operating in Syria target women as a “vulnerable” social class; accordingly, the majority of their workers are women as well, being the most capable of indulging in private social life and interacting with women and children.
In the other organizations, however, women have equal opportunities to employment, just like men, though they are absent by 88% from participating in making leadership and strategic decisions, according to research issued by the “Ana wa Hiya” (Me and Her) organization, in March 2016.
Local Council’s Family Representation Excludes Women
In Kafr Nabl, the local council today has only to two women members out of the 13 members it consists of in general; one of them is the head of the Women Affairs Office and the second is the head of the Legal Office, according to Fatimah al-Khalaf, the head of the legal office.
In an interview with Enab Baladi, al-Khalaf said that women’s participation is weak if compared to men, because every family in the city is represented by a member at the council, who are usually chosen by the Consultative Council or the Electoral Board, in addition to this there are certain fields that women cannot address as they relate to services.
She added that the local councils have bridged the gap created by the state’s absence in the areas out of the regime control, but still “there are many obstacles that are yet ruling their work, some of which result of the limited funding, others relate to lack of experience that concerned people are still accumulating, other obstacles are caused by the traditional manner of thinking which is against democracy (the representation of families and favoritism), which control some of the councils in Idlib.”
Khalaf added that choosing ineligible women to work for the councils was met with a lot of criticism at the beginning of their participation, pointing out that this applies to men and women, for the member should be a holder of a university degree of the specialty he/she represents in the council.
Reactions about Women’s Participation
Women working for local councils is a matter of dispute and controversy among the area’s people; there was a rift, for some were with the idea of having women representatives and demanded that their participation be boosted, and another segment that considered that women need more training to indulge in the fields of politics and civil society.
Hala Ahmad, a female media activist, expressed her objection to women holding positions at the local council, though she calls women to enter the labor market and be financially independent.
Ahmad attributed this opinion to the idea that women are not that powerful when it comes to politics and do not have the ability to understand how the things are progressing at this stage, the reason why they are not competent for a leadership or decision-making positions, pointing out that women should be first empowered politically and then indulged in the local councils.
Contrastingly, human rights activist Fatimah Hmaid believes that women should be effective in whatever position they hold and that it is necessary for women to have a real representation in the local council not only a name or a number to provide to the donors.
For her part, media activist Sanaa al-Ali, from the town of Maar Tahroma, rural Idlib, considered that women have enough courage to be in the local council. She said: “Women have the right to have a heard voice, as to deliver many of the women’s voices and demands, so they would take up their true role and positioning.”
She added that the war had a massive impact on women the reason why “they have the right to a place not only at the local councils but also other political prestigious positions, and being a female does not undermine her value or femininity as some of those who criticize her role believe.”