MK: Israel mulls creation of ‘women’s affairs’ ministry

Gamliel (Likud) says women's ministry would devote attention entirely to improving situation of women and promoting equality in society.

Gila Gamliel 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file[)
Gila Gamliel 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file[)
Israel could soon have a new government ministry and accompanying minister dedicated entirely to improving the situation of the country’s women and promoting their equality in all spheres of society, Likud MK Gila Gamliel said Monday.
In an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post, Gamliel, who currently serves as deputy minister for the Advancement of Young People, Students and Women, and is the first person to hold such a position focusing on women’s issues, said her appointment was “the first step” toward creating a full-blown Women’s Affairs Ministry.
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“There is no doubt that women’s standing in society has improved greatly, but we still have a lot more to do to get to the point where there is total equality,” said Gamliel, who three months ago successfully pushed the government to take up an active role in the recently created United Nations Women.
“We have to do much more to achieve equality,” she said, adding, “We should not have to wait another 60 years to make this happen. Creating a ministry that will be responsible for policies relating to women is one solution to improving the situation.”
Gamliel, who has been the deputy minister for women’s issues for more than two years, said it’s just a matter of time before Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu creates such a ministry, which, she hopes, will in turn increase the female presence in the country’s power base.
Over the past two years, Gamliel has commissioned numerous research studies on the status of women in politics and legislature. She has noted that compared to other nations, women here make up only small percentages of those in positions of power.
According to figures published by the UN, Israel ranks fairly poorly in the number of women serving in parliament.
Currently, in countries such as Rwanda, Sweden and South Africa, women hold close to or more than 50% of seats in the legislature. In contrast, Israeli women account for only 19% in the Knesset.
In addition, Gamliel pointed to the fact that out of 254 mayors and municipal council heads countrywide, only six are female; and among the roughly 3,000 representatives on local city councils, only around 370 are women.
In the government itself, there are just three female ministers and seven deputy ministers out of a total of 28.
“We are talking about a very small percentage of women who are politically active and involved in making the real decisions,” said Gamliel, adding that if we can “change that and increase women’s representation and create a sisterhood network, then it will be easier to get women out of the home and into the workplace. Then even more opportunities will be created for them.”
However, she noted that effecting such a change would mean challenging a cultural mindset to create work environments that are more family-friendly.
Gamliel has already put forward recommendations to the government that focus on family-friendly work hours: allowing mothers in the civil service to work from home more or use flexi-hours, assessing work based on output and not on actual hours put in, and holding important meetings earlier in the day so working mothers can participate in them.
“We need a complete change in mentality,” she said, adding that stereotypes such as the mother staying home cooking and the father going out to work were still images prevalent in school textbooks and programs for children.
Gamliel said she had also been researching other nations with ministries for women, and some of the more prominent countries include New Zealand, Austria and Turkey.
Ultimately, concluded Gamliel, “the decision on whether to create a ministry for women must come from the prime minister, but I believe we are heading in the right direction. I am pretty sure that the first chance he has, he will take up this issue.”