Activists urge women to vote to advance rights

'It is all up to us to increase the number of women MKs'

elections2009_248 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Dozens of women from all sectors and from all across the country came to the Tel Aviv Cinematheque on Sunday to urge women to exercise their right to vote, and to do so for parties that work to advance women's rights. They watched Katja Von Garnier's film Iron Jawed Angels (2004), the story of American women who fought for equal rights. Women's right to vote became US law in 1920 as a result of their struggle. Michal Yudin, chairwoman of WePower - a group that aims to encourage women to influence society, enter politics and advance equal opportunities - said that according to a survey the organization conducted last week, most undecided voters were women. Yudin asked the guests to encourage women to go out and vote. "Each one of us has her own circle of girlfriends, and if we don't urge them to vote, we will once again see a leadership that is paralyzed by small, extortionist parties," Yudin told the attendees. "We are heading to the 32nd government in the 60 years of the State of Israel's existence, [a] phenomenon close to anarchy. We women need to give our votes to a single big party that will be stable and will not be blackmailed. We must understand that each vote counts, and influences events." Yudin stressed that she had no intention of recommending one party over another, but that women needed to remember that they constituted 51.4 percent of Israel's population. "And yet we are still treated as a sector. We are mentioned in one breath with sectors such as Ashkenazim, Sephardim, haredim and the disabled, when in fact we are the majority," she said. "It is in our hands to decide which leaders we want to see in the Knesset and in the government. Budgets are allocated in accordance with political power. It is all up to us to increase the number of women in the Knesset. Not only must we go and vote, we also need to take our friends with us to vote on election day." Speaking to The Jerusalem Post before the event, Yudin noted that "women find it easier to support men, and we think it's important to encourage them to support other women for their benefit." Mati Yogev, the director of Kadima's women's headquarters, attended the event as well and said that her party, headed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, had been mobilizing the women's camp long before the Likud launched its negative advertising campaign saying that Livni would be "out of her league" running the country. Dr. Rachel Adato, No. 22 on the Kadima ticket, said women did not have to hesitate in deciding whom to support once they saw that the candidate list with the most women on it was Kadima's. "It's a fact. The rest of the parties don't have so many women on their list, and that says it all," she said. Kadima MK Ronit Tirosh said that until Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu and Labor head Ehud Barak had begun to imply that Livni could not handle the premiership because she was a woman, Livni had not made an issue of her gender to attract votes. When asked why women should vote for Livni, who voted against the bill to make child care expenses tax-deductible for working women, Tirosh said it was true that Livni had voted against the bill, "but she did it because she was subject to coalition discipline." "I initiated this bill together with MK Gideon Sa'ar (Likud) and MK Orit Noked (Labor)," she explained. "I voted for it because I am not a minister and no one instructed me to oppose it, unlike the ministers, who were instructed to oppose it. I'm sure that once she is prime minister, such laws that help women will be advanced more than they were by men." Two young women students from Tel Aviv University who specialize in gender studies were among the event's participants. They both told this reporter how women's status in Israel in 2009 was not equal to men's when it came to wages, senior positions and so on. "People here live with the false feeling that women are equal, but they are not," one of them said. "The point here is not to tell women to vote for one particular candidate, but to encourage women to take an active part in political life and in everything else," the other said. They both said they would not vote for Livni. "The only thing missing for me in Kadima is the environmental aspect and a serious promise to handle the green issues," one of them said.