TOVA BEN DOV 58.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
On March 8, we celebrate International Women’s Day. We have come a long way
since 1893, when New Zealand was the first country to give women the right to
vote. But it was to be long fight. One by one, countries granted women the vote
– some earlier, some later; Swiss women only received full voting rights in
1971, and today, in some countries, women still do not have this basic
Zionist women’s organizations began to appear in the 1900s. The
fruits of their efforts led to their being represented in the Elected Assembly
(1920), in which six delegates were elected, and in the Second Elected Assembly
(1925) in which there were 13 delegates.
The resolution in the meeting of
representatives, calling for equal opportunities for women in all civilian,
political and financial matters in the Jewish homeland, was a major achievement.
Political activity was extended to include the right to be elected to local
With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, women
immediately had the right to vote. The Declaration of Independence calls for
complete equality, irrespective of gender.
This is one of the
cornerstones of a democratic society.
In the elections for the first
Knesset, WIZO formed a women’s list to look after the unique interests of women,
and one candidate, Rachel Kagan, was elected and signed the Declaration of
The struggle for gender equality has continued throughout
the existence of the state.
The status of women in a democratic society
is reflected, first and foremost, in their status regarding decision making. In
Israeli politics, this basic democratic principle is lacking due to a
significant absence of women in top leadership positions.
On the issue of
gender equality, there has been a spurt in legislation.
In 1991 a number
of laws were passed – the Law for Equal Opportunity in the Workplace and the Law
for the Prevention of Violence in the Family, a ratification of the UN pact to
abolish all kinds of discrimination against women, and an amendment to the Law
of Women Working in the Public Sector.
On September 7, 1995, the civil
service commissioner was given the authority to intervene in a tender to ensure
In 1996 a law for equal pay was passed, as
was a law against sexual harassment. In 1998, a similar law was passed by the
The common denominator among all these laws is that
they are not enforced, or only partially enforced.
is a gap between the support of a political network for gender equality and the
implementation of this policy.
There is apparently no intention to
implement an effective policy based on the legislation, due to an unclear
understanding of the aims, objectives and messages, and the absence of resources
Policy-makers declare their intentions in order to
improve their image or gain the support of an interested party, despite their
not having the ability to implement the policy.
AS WELL as raising
awareness and legislation, women’s organizations prepare women to take their
place in public life and contend in politics.
Na’amat, Emunah, the
Women’s Network, the We Power organization and other organizations have
developed programs to prepare women for public work.
For more than 10
years, WIZO has operated a school for politics which supplies support and
encouragement to improve administrative and leadership talents, and to adapt
these talents for work in the public sector. Through legislation, women have to
be brought into key positions, since the balance of male and female standpoints
benefits decision making.
Equality will be reached when women’s
representation goes from being a woman’s issue to being a social
issue.The writer is chairperson of the World WIZO Executive.