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Knesset to hold international conference for female leaders
By LAHAV HARKOV
08/17/2014
Edelstein says event to spread the word about women's rights in Israel; Merkel, Clinton to be invited.
 
The Knesset plans to invite high-profile names like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former US secretary of state Hilary Clinton to an international conference of female parliamentarians next year.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said Sunday that he plans to invite all his female colleagues to the event, pointing out that many women lead parliaments around the world.

“I make sure to invite all the parliamentary speakers I meet to raise interest in the conference.

I’ve gotten great responses,” he stated.

Edelstein added that he is “thinking about central figures that could come to speak, women at the highest levels.”

Although he did not specify who would be invited, Knesset Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women chairwoman Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) mentioned Merkel and Clinton as possibilities.

Edelstein also said the conference would be “a serious contribution to understanding what happens in the Knesset and Israel” in relation to women.

The planned conference is affiliated with Women in Parliaments, a Zurich-based non-partisan organization meant to help female lawmakers from around the world to network. It held a summit in Rwanda this summer.

MKs on both sides of the aisle, including Lavie, MK Yifat Kariv (Yesh Atid), and MK Michal Biran (Labor), are helping plan the event, as well as Knesset Secretary Yardena Maller-Horowitz.

“It’s important that we don’t take it for granted that the conference is in Israel...We are the only democracy in the Middle East, and as women, we have what to be proud of here,” Lavie said.

The conference will showcase the work Lavie’s committee is doing and the state of women’s rights in Israel, via issues that interest the international community, such as legislation against human trafficking, sexual harassment, and discrimination against women in the workplace and elsewhere.

Lavie explained that Israel has some of the most progressive legislation in the world when it comes to women’s rights, but reality does not necessarily reflect that progress, as laws are not enforced and many women are not aware of their rights.

“We want to see how countries around the world with a similar commitment to democracy and equality deal with these issues,” she explained. “Countries that treat [sexism] as a social problem, not just a women’s problem, make more progress.”

Lavie is especially proud of her committee’s work to help women in minority groups – Beduin, haredim, and others – make their voices heard in the Knesset, and believes that Israel has a lot to show the world when it comes to multiculturalism.

“When we work together, we make progress,” she stated.
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