On June 27, Kayan – Feminist Organization held a consultative meeting with members of the National Committee of Arab Local Authority Mayors to discuss the grassroots participation of women in local decision-making processes, particularly budgeting. The meeting, held in Nazareth, was attended by representatives from Kayan, members of the Jusur Forum of Arab Women Leaders, and representatives from the Committee, and was conducted as part of Kayan’s Gender Equality in Local Budgeting project begun in 2011.
Kayan’s director, Rafah Anabtawi, opened the meeting. Stressing the meeting’s importance, Anabtawi explained that “working at the grassroots, with women housewives and workers without advanced education is a strategic decision and a matter of empowerment. The challenge here is for women to take a more effective role in the society in general, and in local decision-making processes in particular, through gender-sensitive municipal planning and budgeting.” She noted that in-depth cooperation between women activists and the Committee will contribute to strengthening women’s voices at the local and national levels.
Ramiz Jaraisy, mayor of Nazareth and chair of the Committee, echoed Anabtawi’s remarks, explaining that in recent years a trend toward increasing the integration of women in decision-making has begun. He added that this work is vital and “should be done on more than one level in order to create favorable conditions for local grassroots action.
One of Kayan’s community organizers, Adella Biadi-Shlon, led a discussion on the planning and implementation of strategies that promote grassroots participation of women in local decision-making processes. “Gender-sensitive budgeting is one of the strategies of action to improve the status of women in society,” said Biadi-Shlon. “It is not a question of dividing the budget equally between men and women, but of taking into account the interests and needs of the community and of the women in early stages of planning. To ensure the success of such a strategy, strong political will, proper training on budget planning and on analysis of gender in relation to the work of local authorities, and knowledge of tools for mobilizing women in the municipal planning processes are vital.”
Professor Yousef Jabareen, from the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning at the Technion, presented his analysis of planning and public participation. He emphasized the importance of political participation of the community in general, and women in particular, in order to enable local authorities to respond appropriately to the needs of the community and especially to the needs of women and children.
The meeting concluded with a discussion on the development of local mechanisms for gender-sensitive budgeting and grassroots activism of women. Two mayors, Omar Nassar of Arabeh and Imran Kenana of Yaft an-Nassriye, described their successful experiences collaborating with Kayan and grassroots women activists on the issue of gender-sensitive budgeting, and they urged the Committee to take part in similar projects because of their unique potential for fostering sustainable development of women’s local involvement.
The meeting led to several recommendations for the members of the Forum and of the Committee, including continued national-level work on gender equality in local budgeting through cooperation between women activists and the National Committee of Arab Local Authority Mayors, stakeholders’ internalization of the projects’ concepts and strategy, and coordination with Knesset members and other national authorities.