Tuesday marks the 100th International Women’s Day – 100 years of promoting
social change and equality.
Every year, awareness of the issues grows
around the world, and with it comes an increased understanding that only truly
equal opportunity among all its sectors leads to a diverse, prosperous and
Unfortunately, these notions are not yet common
knowledge. In 2011, we still hear such things as the Psalms’ passage “The king’s
daughter is all glorious within” (a reference to modesty), “a woman’s thought
[mind] is light” (in reference to a view in the Talmud that Torah should not be
taught to a woman, as her mind is not developed) and “it’s too much for
Some of us are still subject to separation on buses and sidewalks.
As a woman, as a public servant, as a legislator elected to the Knesset, I deal
with these issues daily.
THE CONCEPT of equality is relative, albeit
significant change has occurred over the years. Women have ventured out of their
homes and into public life – the workforce, the army, the economy, academia and
so on. Nevertheless, there is a long way to go. Every day, I work alongside
women’s organizations to eradicate discrimination, and remove barriers to
equality (including the wage gap, the dismissal of pregnant women, the “glass
ceiling,” sexual harassment, get refusal and so on).
country’s legislation on these issues is some of the most advanced in the world,
the laws remain mere passages in law books.
These gaps and barriers are
more emphasized when it comes to occupations perceived as “masculine,” and ones
that require discretion and judgement. When it comes to politics and security,
the gap is even wider.
The active participation of women in such forums
could be the impetus for expanding the narrow view that national policies should
be shaped almost entirely by military personnel and those in the security
Iran, after all, is not the only strategic threat. Our
security awareness should include such issues as our water supply, energy
sources, the environment, the economy, our educational system and so on. Yet
many of these are not even mentioned in debates.
The military prism
through which we currently evaluate, examine and analyze events is much too
narrow. Only the inclusion of persons from various fields in general, and of
women in particular, can bring about a thorough reevaluation of the reality in
which we live.
THIS INSIGHT was reached a decade ago, with UN Security
Council Resolution 1325 calling for all nations to increase the representation
of women at all levels of decision- making for war prevention and conflict
resolution. Since then, only one of every 50 people to sign a peace agreement
has been a woman, and one in 13 in a negotiating team has been female. Only two
Israeli women have participated in the past 20 years of negotiations and peace
discussions. On the Palestinian side, it’s been five.
Israel was the
first country to legislate on this issue: In 2005, an amendment to the equality
law was passed by which representation of women in public committees and in
policy-shaping teams – including those dealing with security and foreign affairs
– would increase. And how is this law enforced? We were all witness to the
Turkel Commission affair, in which the High Court issued an order to include a
woman in the composition of the team investigating events on the Mavi
In a recent study in honor of the 10th anniversary of Resolution
1325, it was found that efforts to end regional conflicts were unsuccessful due
to the exclusion of women. In reference to women in the Middle East, the study
found that women were the first to declare a willingness to participate in peace
talks, but were relegated to the sidelines by central figures in both the
national and international spheres.
One of the central issues I chose to
focus on as a public servant is the promotion of awareness among Israeli women
of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and of the other conflicts we must deal
with to bring peace.
I attend forums which include participants from all
over the region, and which focus on social activism for the promotion of
In cooperation with the organization Critical Pedagogy, I have
initiated lectures, seminars and tours of the security barrier for leading
women. For many, it was the first encounter with the conflict.
participation in negotiations does not guarantee an agreement, but the skills
and tools women bring to the table are too easily passed up.
one woman holds a key government position. The responsibility lies with our
prime minister, who appointed only three female ministers, none of whom serve in
Only intensive activism and political pressure on decision
makers to include women in the security and decision-making fields will shatter
the glass ceiling and dismantle the cement walls.
In the end, it’s been
proven that the one person who conducted negotiations on a pragmatic level to
safeguard Israel’s interests was a woman – former foreign minister and leader of
the opposition Tzipi Livni, shattering the illusions of those who expressed
doubt that she could “answer the phone at 3 a.m.,” or who felt that this was
“too much for her.”
Our work is far from over. We must do everything we
can to promote equality and to ensure that the next 100 years will see balanced
representation of talented, worthy women in all fields.The writer is a
Kadima MK. She is a member of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and
the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.