In light of the recent adoption of the new law for provincial and district council elections, the Iraqi Women Journalists Forum held a seminar to discuss how best to ensure effective representation of women in these councils given that the new law stipulates that women should make up no less than 25% of the seats in each one. For example, in the Baghdad Provincial Council there are 57 seats, and according to law, women must occupy at least 19 seats. The goal of the seminar was therefore to find effective ways to fill the quota requirements.

Wafaa Al-Khalidi, one of seven other women serving on the Muthanna Governorate Council, talked about her experience during the past three sessions of the provincial council, highlighting the effective role of women in decisions-making, in monitoring the performance of the mayor, and in evaluating the negatives and positives of the council’s work in the city. Al-Khalidi added that those who run for elections must take on real grass roots work with their constituents rather than simply making unrealistic promises. She stressed that Iraqi society still tends to give its votes to men, so this quota is essential to secure women council seats.

Seminar participants emphasized the importance of supporting women’s participation in decision-making through various advocacy campaigns, and agreed more generally on several points for civil society to act upon:

1. Civil society, particularly the media, should mobilize public opinion to vote for and support women as candidates. Once in the public sphere, women should express their wills as individuals, not merely as complementary to the voices of their husbands, fathers or family members.
2. Civil society should invite political party members to seminars and media programs which emphasize the importance of granting women representation, and of giving them effective roles in provincial councils.
3. Civil society should intensify the media’s effort to highlight independent feminist voices who are running for elections.
4. Civil society should put on workshops for provincial council members, especially women, on the work of local governments and the tasks assigned to them once elected.

The seminar was an activity within the Shahrazad Project, which will continue to carry out similar seminars on the active role of women in the political sphere. These will be implemented by the Iraqi Women Journalists Forum and in cooperation with Un Ponte Per … and the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative.

By the Secretary of ICSSI, September 2017