Women's Commission launched

IWC will ensure representation of women in all decision-making bodies in Israel.

naomi chazan 88 (photo credit: )
naomi chazan 88
(photo credit: )
The International Women's Commission (IWC), established to ensure representation of women in all decision-making bodies and negotiation teams in Israel, was launched Monday at the Knesset. The Knesset event coincided with the parallel launch of the IWC by Palestinian women in east Jerusalem earlier in the day. "Women have been deprived of their right to representation at the highest levels," said MK Colette Avital (Labor). "The IWC has been created to change that. It is time that the decision makers realized that the men who wage war cannot be the only people who try to make peace," declared MK Zahava Galon (Meretz-Yahad). The IWC is based on Amendment 4 to the Equal Rights for Women Law, passed by the Knesset in June 2005, which mandates appropriate representation for women in all decision-making bodies of the state that deal with political and security matters, as well as conflict resolution. This amendment is based on UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which similarly calls for increased representation of women at all decision-making levels in the resolution of conflicts. According to former MK Naomi Chazan, Israel is the only country to have enacted such legislation. "By establishing the IWC," she added, "we are showing that we are not only legislating, we are also implementing the legislation." According to an IWC position paper, "Women tend to take positions that are closely informed by the reality of their lives. It is critical that these perspectives are included in official discussions." In support of their efforts, the IWC presented data from a recent nationwide poll on women's participation in peace talks, conducted by Dr. Mina Zemach of Dahaf Institute. The data reveal that 77 percent of the Israeli public believes that it is important to include women in political negotiations, as do 75 percent of the men who were polled. Seventy-six percent of the public believes that women bring unique perspectives to these negotiations. "This shows that the public supports our positions," declared Chazan. "Attention to issues that affect everyday life will generate wider support for any future negotiations." "In establishing the IWC, we are focusing on what women can do differently than men," said IWC member Maha abu-Dayyeh-Shamas, Director of the Women's Center for Legal Aid and Counseling. "We do not intend to create parallel negotiations, nor are we merely a flower on men's initiatives or a public-relations gimmick." According to abu-Dayyeh-Shamas, the IWC has already been recognized by Palestinian law and a Presidential Directive, issued in September 2005, and mandates women's equal participation in negotiations. The IWC was established subsequent to extensive negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian women, which culminated at an international conference in Istanbul in July 2005, under the auspices of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and with the support of international participants, including Simone Suskind, Advisor to the Minister of Justice (Belgium), Frene Ginwala, former speaker of the South African National Assembly, and women from Europe, Korea, and the US. Aida Touma-Sliman, Director of Women Against Violence, noted that the IWC is committed to a broad representation of Israel's varied populations. "This is what makes the IWC different and important, and this is why we will be able to bring about change," she said. Avital contended that the IWC has broad political support, noting that MK Eti Livni (Shinui) and women from groups as diverse as the Democratic Mizrahi Rainbow and the Center for Women's Justice are also members. Commenting on political furor in the Knesset yesterday, Avital said, "Even though the political calendar has become so charged, we think it is appropriate to launch the IWC today because we hope that women's representation will become a part of all of the parties' platforms." Talia Livni, president of Na'amat, Israel, concluded by calling on all women to be partners in the IWC. "We, the women who give life to children, will also bring life to the peace process," she said.