Slogan for Haredi female voters.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A group of female activists from the haredi community has started a campaign to secure a spot for haredi women on the electoral lists of the haredi United Torah Judaism and Shas parties for the upcoming elections.
The “No Representation, No Vote,” group, which has almost 3,000 likes on Facebook, launched it’s campaign last week, and is requesting from the leaders of the haredi parties that at least one place on each party list be reserved for a woman.
The campaign is calling on haredi women not to vote for the haredi political parties if their request is denied.
Women in the haredi sector are generally barred from positions of communal leadership, and for a women to take such positions is either considered immodest, or not in keeping with the community’s standards or values.
Voting is however strongly encouraged for both men and women who are frequently exhorted to go and vote as a religious commandment to ensure a strong turnout for the haredi parties in elections.
Esti Shushan, one of the “No Representation, No Vote” campaign activists, acknowledges that the struggle to gain a voice within the haredi parties will be tough but says that the current MKs are not dealing with the array of concerns facing haredi women in Israel.
Among those concerns is employment conditions, which can be for less pay and worse terms than their secular counterparts, and men.
New figures released by the Bank of Israel show that 79.5 percent of haredi women are employed, higher than the national average for women of 75.3% and almost double the level of haredi men in work, just 44.7%.
“Haredi women are bearing the haredi world on their backs,” Shushan told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. “They have a heavy burden in supporting a family in a haredi lifestyle but in terms of their working conditions, salaries and the attitude of employees toward them there is much that needs to be addressed which the haredi MKs are just not interested in,” she continued.
“We are at the beginning of the path and we have begun the conversation. People are now asking the question, why can’t women do this? It might take a long time, but we cannot wait for these things to happen by themselves.”
Shushan says that MKs from the haredi parties failed to attend Knesset hearings on issues such as female health and employment in the haredi sector, which she says are pressing concerns.
“We need to bring our voice to the Knesset because women are simply not being heard,” she said.
The “No Representation No Vote” campaign has also started an online fund-raising campaign, although only a paltry NIS 1,600 has been raised so far from a target of NIS 30,000.
“Elections are coming and it doesn’t matter if you’re a Shas voter, an Aguda voter, non-hassidic, Sephardi, or hassidic, you have no representation in the haredi parties, you are not counted,” the group said on its Facebook page.
“This discrimination is anchored in the party regulations which do not allow women to be elected,” the activists wrote.
The group’s organizers acknowledge that gaining exposure in the haredi world will be difficult due to constraints within the community regarding Internet content and social media access.
Part of the campaign, therefore, will include the mass distribution of posters and stickers advertising their cause in all major haredi neighborhoods.
They intend to publicize advertisements in the haredi press to get out their message, as well as sending information via email and the WhatsApp smartphone application which is widely used in haredi circles.
“In the last two years we have thoroughly examined the status of haredi women in Israel, we’ve participated and even initiated hearings in the Knesset, and we have realized that our voices are not heard in committees and in the various public forums as they should be,” the group stated in its fund-raising campaign.
“We undertake not to vote for parties that do not have female representation,” the declaration reads.