Samuel Burke, Claire Calzonetti
October 18, 2012 - 12:00am

This Saturday, Palestinians in the West Bank will hold elections for the first time in six years, voting for municipal leaders.

It takes place against a backdrop of a deep sense of frustration with the split between Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah, the stalled economy, and the stalemate with Israel over final statehood.

What's so unusual about this election is the number of women running. 

Maysoun Qawasmi is leading the first all-female independent ticket, their slogan: 'by participating, we can'.

She is one of more than 1,000 women running in municipal elections in Palestinian elections.

“We need a lot and we need to work ten times more than any of the men in the campaigns,” she told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

In the conservative city of Hebron in the West Bank, it's unusual to find a Palestinian woman with a job, let alone in a position of political leadership.

But that's exactly what Qawasmi is trying to change.

“What I’m trying to do now is bring a change in a positive way and show that women must be the decision makers because they understand the municipality.”

Right now her campaign signs don’t even show her picture.

“A strong women can brings rights for the society,” Qawasmi says. She feels attitudes have already started changing from the time she started her campaign.

“The first day they told me, ‘Are you crazy? What are you doing?’ but then when they heard me on the local radio they understood my issues. They’re talking with me live in the radio and they’ve told me they understand me now.”

She believes the electorate realized she wants more than just women’s rights. She says she also wants more services for the municipality and more rights for the society at large.

When she began the campaign she said people warned her husband would take a second wife because she was neglecting her duties at home.

But she says in the Arab World a woman couldn’t run with a husband who gives her support.

“He told me ‘You are strong, go and I will support you everywhere.’”

Her husband and five children have been pitching in at home while she’s campaigning.

Qawasmi says her son gave her one of the best pieces of advice for her run for office.

He came to her and said people in Hebron and the Palestinian Territories may not respect her campaign, but he told her, “History will be respect you for what you’re doing for the women in Arab World.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017