KURDISTAN: Kurdish Women Press for More Power

Monday, January 30, 2012
Western Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Reconstruction and Peacebuilding

Women's rights activists in the Kurdistan region are demanding greater representation in the new Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) cabinet, saying despite a quota that sets aside 25 percent of parliamentary seats for women, female leaders do not have enough power.

Shayda Hassan, the head of Sabat women's organization in Sulaimani told Rudaw, “(The quota system) should be implemented when choosing ministries and not only in Parliament.”

Since the first Kurdish Parliament was established in 1992, women have held seats in Parliament and currently hold about 30 percent of the seats in Parliament.

Hassan credits women's rights organizations with pressing the government to give more power to women, but said female elected officials “work for the party's agenda. They should work for women in general.”

Under fire after appointing just one female minister to his cabinet, Prime Minister Barham Salih pledged to appoint women to high-level government posts and created a council on women's affairs, a body that was widely criticized for doing little to push women's rights.

Women's activists are now pressing the incoming Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani, to empower women leaders.

Payman Izaddin, a Kurdish MP from the opposition Change Movement, said appointing Kurdish women to ministerial points won't be enough.

“The million dollar question is: Has there been the will to improve the position of women?” she asked. “Because giving ministerial posts won't change the situation. It's true it will have an impact, but the government has to have a serious program to improve the situation.”

Barzani, who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2009, had three female ministers in his cabinet -- which was twice as big as Salih's -- and created a council to combat violence against women. He also raised the salaries of female workers.

But Izaddin said, “We (women) need work of social, political and economic standing, and only giving post won't solve the problems.”

Feyan Sulaiman, the head of the Kurdistan Women's Union, said her organization “has prepared a good plan to present to the prime minister. A lot more work needs to be done for women. We are optimistic that the (incoming) cabinet will have a good agenda for women.”

In the Kurdistan Region political parties choose candidates for government posts prior to the cabinet being created. However, no party has revealed the lists of its candidates yet.

Sozan Khala Shahab, a woman MP from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) said, “I hope the political parties do not pick only men.”

Shahab said that there are plenty of capable women and hoped that the ministry of education of education is given to a woman.

There is a strong possibility at the moment that Asos Najib, the minister of social affairs in the previous government, will remain in her post.

Najib, who is a member of the PUK said, “So far no one has talked to me from the PUK about my post.”

Jaafar Ibrahim, spokesperson for Kurdistan Democratic Party's politburo said, “The KDP will have female candidates for ministerial posts and at least one of our ministers will be woman.”