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Cablegate: Female Muncipal and Village Council Members

VZCZCXRO3301
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHJM #1977 2631608
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 201608Z SEP 07
FM AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9079
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NSC PRIORITY

UNCLAS JERUSALEM 001977

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

NEA FOR FRONT OFFICE, NSC FOR ABRAMS/SINGH/WATERS, NEA/PI
FOR KIRBY/PATTON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: IS KPAL KWBG PGOV PREL KDEM KMPI KPAO
PHUM.EAID
SUBJECT: FEMALE MUNCIPAL AND VILLAGE COUNCIL MEMBERS
DISCUSS OBSTACLES TO WORK


1. Summary. Twelve female Palestinian elected members of
municipal and village councils gathered on September 9, for
an International Republican Institute-sponsored workshop on
local governance and preparing project proposals. The
members identified gender discrimination and inadequate
resources to fund local organizations and infrastructure
projects as problems that they face. End Summary.

Miftah Program: Training Women Political Leaders
--------------------------------------------- ---

2. Through a grant to the International Republican
Institute (IRI), NEA/PI supports Miftah, a Palestinian NGO
that trains elected and civil society female leaders. With
the commencement of additional funding, the Miftah program
resumed in early September to train on advocacy, lobbying,
time management and governance and to hold public meetings in
Hebron, Ramallah, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Tulkerem. MEPI
coordinator attended a September 9 Jerusalem training on
governance and project proposal preparation for twelve
elected local council members. All twelve women were
muhajiba (covered their hair), and most were 45-60 years old.
Several had campaigned for their positions, while others
were encouraged (because of their local activism or civil
society work) to fill slots created by the quota system.
(Note: for the 2004 and 2005 municipal council elections, the
Palestinian Authority instituted a quota of a minimum of two
seats for women per council.)

Training Content: Democratic Governance
-----------------------------------

3. The training's first hour provided an overview of
democratic governance, including the separation of power,
each branch's role in a democratic system, and
municipal-national issues. The women listened to the
presentation attentively and asked questions. In the second
hour, trainers addressed municipal level issues and
representatives' rights and duties. Participants discussed
creating and publicizing budgets to identify any shortfall or
excess of funds. Several participants complained about the
law requiring the Ministry of Local Governance (MoLG)
approval for local projects. Participants said requiring
MoLG project approval is unnecessary and inefficient, as the
MoLG is not in touch with local needs and takes too long to
approve a project, if it responds at all. Several
participants expressed an interest in seeing the current law
amended to empower local councils.

Lively Discussion of Gender
Discrimination and Fatah-Hamas Conflict
---------------------------------------

4. The discussion was liveliest when the female council
members described discrimination from their male colleagues,
including being excluded from council meetings. They said
male colleagues sometimes think they cannot contribute to
discussion of certain issues (i.e., infrastructure and
sewage) and do not include them in meetings on these issues.
Some women elected by the quota said their fathers or
brothers are invited to council meetings in their place.

5. Some women council members also said the Fatah-Hamas
conflict prevents local councils from functioning
effectively. A member of the Jaba municipal council, made up
of five Hamas and four Fatah members, said the council has
not met in six months, although councils should meet at least
four times per month.

Seeking Donor Funding for Small Projects
----------------------------------------

6. The council members were most interested in how to
prepare proposals for foreign funding of local development
projects, such as small income generation enterprises and
computer training for women, and complained that the PA
provides local councils little money.

7. Comment: While participants seemed to welcome the
lesson on governance and the opportunity to air common
grievances, this training would have been more useful to
participants if it had focused more on practical steps that
women council members can take to address gender
discrimination and funding gaps. Participants' desire for
tangible improvements in the lives and prospects of their
constituents was clear. End Comment.
WALLES

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