Election Awareness Workshops for Palestinian Women, June 1994, West Bank & Gaza, Final Report

INTRODUCTION

IFES convened a series of nine election awareness workshops in the West Bank and Gaza from June 16 to June 24, 1994. The workshops gathered Palestinian women political and community activists in 8 different localities. The workshops aimed at familiarizing participants with electoral issues to prepare women to mobilize for the Palestinian Council elections.

These workshops sprang from an IFES mission to the region in January 1994. Shortly after the signing of the Declaration of Principles (DOP) on September 13, 1993, IFES staff began contacts with Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) officials and representatives in the United States, Europe and the Middle East to explore possibilities for providing technical assistance in preparation for the Palestinian Council elections scheduled for 1994 according to the terms of the DOP. In December 1993, IFES' Chief of Staff, Jeff Fischer, met in Tunis with senior PLO officials.

With funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) Asia and Near East Bureau, IFES sent in January 1994 a two-person team to Tunisia, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza to conduct a survey on the prospects and plans for Palestinian elections. The team of Keith Klein, Program Director for Africa and the Near East, and of Adila R. Laidi, Program Officer for North Africa and the Near East met in Tunis with the PLO leadership. Then, from their base in Jerusalem, they had meetings with Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Tel Aviv.

The IFES team also met with members of the Women's Affairs Technical Committee. The Committee was formed in the context of the Madrid talks. There are 30 other Technical Committees, with more than 400 participating experts. They were originally established to produce studies to advise the Palestinian delegation to the peace talks. The Women's Committee has several subcommittees: training, mass media, elections, development, bill of rights.

Elections subcommittee members pointed to the fact that even though all Palestinian political Parties were for the right of women to vote, the idea of women running for elections was still not completely accepted. The subcommittee members planned, therefore, to press their respective parties' leadership to field women candidates. They also expressed to the IFES team their plans for holding workshops for women active in professional, grassroots and voluntary organizations to discuss election-related strategies and issues such as voting rights, running for office, putting women's concerns on political party platforms, civic and voter education, etc. The subcommittee lacked, however, the election information resources to conduct these workshops. The cooperation of IFES was solicited in this endeavor. IFES, with funding from USAID, was able to respond to this request by providing two resource people to assist the subcommittee in conducting these workshops.

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