Ma'an News Agency (Interview)
September 24, 2012 - 12:00am

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Having a woman compete for the municipal council of a city as famous and spiritually important as Bethlehem would have been seen as a pointless adventure a number of years ago. In 2012, however, fellow candidates of Vera Baboun are proud that she is leading a list of hopefuls to become the first female mayor of the city of Bethlehem.

Speaking to Ma'an's reporter, Baboun says she belongs to the history and geography of Bethlehem and is keen to serve the city with a scientific and practical vision developed during her professional life.

Baboun says gender has nothing to do with the capacity and potential of people, and the important thing is mental capabilities and skills, rather than muscle.

"We are not going to a fight, but rather to a competition over who can give this city the best services. Let those who have enough creativity go for it regardless of gender, color, or ethnicity," Baboun told Ma'an regarding the upcoming Oct. 20 elections.

"Leadership needs capacities and management abilities, and potential leaders must be confident of their ability to affect others and be affected by others. They must be confident of their ability to make the change, and I believe in my ability to do that and to convince the public that they deserve the best."

Aware of the hardships and complications in a city like Bethlehem, Baboun says she has a vision in mind about the realities of the city, with its complications and simplicities. Without a realistic and flawless diagnosis, it is hard to provide the right remedy, she says.

Creative solutions are important as the people of Bethlehem seek to upgrade the status of their city in line with its importance to the Palestinians, the region and the entire world, Baboun stressed.

"Bethlehem is Palestine’s window to the world, and the world’s window to Palestine," she added.

"People’s needs must be addressed honestly and spontaneously without any lies or being misled," Baboun said, adding that a nationalist, international and humanitarian discourse is needed.

On one hand, the Christian world must be taken into account in terms of pilgrims, tourists, supporters and sympathizers, she said. On the other, the Arab world must not be forgotten in order to find a way out of the state of segregation the city has entered over the last few years and to create diversity and cooperation.

Baboun has a Masters degree in African-American literature and is currently working on a PhD about women's literature. She is headmistress of the Roman Catholic High School in Beit Sahour and has worked as a lecturer at Bethlehem University, where she was also the dean of student affairs.

She also chairs the board of directors of the Guidance and Training Center for Children and Families and is a member of Palestinian NGO Shashat, which focuses on women's cinema. Baboun is a researcher in gender studies and the role of information technology in empowering women in the Arab world.

Local elections in the West Bank are due to be held on October 20.


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