Not mere voters anymore
Women lead electoral alliances

Ara Ibrahim – Sulaymaniyah Against the odds, the Islamic Union of Kurdistan has recently decided to organize a survey seeking the opinion of its members to choose the member who will lead the party’s list  in Kirkuk province for the upcoming elections on May 12; and as a result a woman came first who is now faced with “huge” challenge in leading the party in the much-anticipated poll planned for May12. The decision was to give the party members the choice to select and appoint the member who should be the party's leading candidate in the multi-ethnic and religious province of Kirkuk. "Our members have given me their trust and I will be working for victory in the elections" said Jwan Hasan Zangana, the fourth woman in Kurdistan Region and the disputed territories to lead the electoral lists for the upcoming elections. "According to our party's conference recommendations, %25 of the positions should be allocated for women which will enable them to become active and go a step forward in the decision-making process and win more of the public trust since women are not less than men," Jwan Zangana told KirkukNow following her nomination for the new challenge. Jwan is the only woman appointed as the leading candidate among the electoral lists in Kirkuk province. Her party has been unable to win a parliamentary seat in Kirkuk constituency in the three previous  rounds of the Iraqi parliament's elections; "I hope that with my continuous efforts and those of my colleagues, we will be able to secure the votes needed for more than one parliamentary seat and I have confidence in that" she said.

Jwan Hassan, the only female who is chosen to lead a list in Kirkuk province. Photo: Facebook
It is for the first time that women are taking the lead to head four electoral lists in Kurdistan Region and the disputed areas. They view this as a culmination of their efforts and persistence in preventing "men's monopolization" in decision-making positions. Meanwhile, after the announcement of an alliance by three Kurdish political parties in the disputed territories, Ikhlas Almas was nominated as the head of the "Nishtiman – Homeland Alliance" in Diyala province becoming the first ever woman to lead a list in that constituency. "I will be working for winning the votes of the province's three components i.e. Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen; women can be from one ethnic group but win the votes of others" Ikhlas told KirkukNow.
Eikhlas Almas, leader of the Patriot Union list in Diyala province.
She also said that, “when she meets with the public, she feels that people listen to women more, if compared to men,” we work for the improvement of people's lives and I will advocate for their demands". According to the quota system set forth in the Iraqi elections' law approved by the Iraqi parliament, %25 of the legislative seats must be allocated by female candidates. Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), following its politburo's decision, has for the first time appointed a female candidate as the head of the party's list in Sulaymaniyah province; the party currently has 20 seats in the Iraqi parliament.
Jwan Ihssan, PUK list leader in Sulaymaniyah province.
Photo: Facebook
The PUK decision to appoint a woman to lead the party's electoral list has been praised by the leading candidate, Jwan Ihsan, as "a daring step forward"; “our party doesn’t make discrimination between women and men in political activism”, Jwan Ihsan said
“Our party doesn’t make discrimination between women and men in political activism.”
"As the party's approved decision, there is no discrimination in political work between women and men; politics is an intellectual work which depends on thoughts and reading the reality so it is an art which is not related to sex rather it is relevant to how do you analyze and make decisions; this talent is shared between both men and women, if there are no impediments on the way of the latter" said Jwan Ihsan , university lecturer and head of PUK's list while speaking to KirkukNow. For women, the roles assigned to them are seen as a new challenge; opposite to their men counterparts who are most of the time take the crucial roles in politics and the decision-making process. Shler Abdulmajeed, head of the Communist Party's list in Sulaymaniyah province said she believes that “compared to the previous elections, women have showed a better role yet "there is still monopolization of power by men". The Communist Party's list in the province consists entirely of women candidates; according to Kawa Mahmood, the party's secretary, part of their policy is to pave the way for women to take positions in the decision-making institutions. Niaz Abdullah, a journalist and activist for women's rights, said she thinks that the development of assigning roles and responsibilities to women has not reached an acceptable level, pointing out that even inside the political parties, where the majority of women are active, men still take major decisions.
“Men still monopolize the power.”
"Women are still elected to the parliament and provincial councils based on the quota system; unfortunately, the competition is unfair as finance and management are mainly controlled by men," she told KirkukNow, while emphasising on the need to increase the quota system to %50 for women. As the country approaches the elections campaign period, Jwan Zangana said she hopes that "voters have confidence in women; the situation has changed and people are aware of the importance of voting for women in order to play their fair roles.

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