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empowering women in israel


Madeleine Brecher, Fran Butensky & Judy Mintz, ICJW Representatives to the UN, NY, were invited to attend a cocktail reception at the home of the Israeli Consul General, Ambassador Ido Aharoni, in New York on November 30, 2011. It was an occasion to learn about WePower (Women’s Electoral Power), a non-profit, non-partisan Israeli organization promoting women’s leadership, and equality in Israel’s public and social arena. 
The National Council of Jewish Women/USA funded this project as part of its Israel Granting Program andcommitment to women’s empowerment, and those of us on the recent NCJW women’s mission to Israel met with WePower leaders in Tel Aviv.  Many NCJW members attended the event in New York.

Ifat Zamir, a former tv celebrity on a major Israeli tv network and currently Executive Director of WePower, made the presentation after being introduced by the Ambassador. She compared the figures of women in decision-making in Israel before WePower was founded in 2000 and currently, after WePower has been traveling the country for 11 years encouraging women’s participation in government. It was very inspiring and truly exciting to hear her talk about how women are motivated to run for municipal office  and even the Knesset after WePower reassures and supports them.

It is now also eleven years since the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. While many member states signed onto the Resolution, what has the success rate been toward developing capacity and accountability for women to achieve success on the ground? We can only judge by other statistics on the empowerment of women globally, and we are not optimistic. Among other things, 1325 was to encourage women’s participation in decision-making roles. Yet politics today remains overwhelmingly a male affair. 
That is why we were all so excited to hear about WePower and its acknowledged positive statistics. Women bring a different sensibility to the table of power; WePower does not dismiss the accomplishments of men but it calls on expanding the possibilities of society and government by also hearing from the other 50% of the population.

Last year, when WePower founder Michal Yudin was asked during an interview if women bring something unique to the table, she replied, “Yes. Women are very good multitaskers. But they also view social needs differently. They will go all the way to work on behalf of, for example, elderly Holocaust survivors who have been neglected by the government for years, or the issue of trafficking in women, or domestic violence. Women can be more persuasive than men — they are better negotiators, and they have a take on certain topics that men don’t have on their agendas. Women are also more common-sense oriented and can get things done in a friendlier way than men. I mention women’s issues because men aren’t interested in them, but women can handle any topic: security, defense, infrastructure, economics.” 
A delightful anecdote: A young Israeli student who is interning this year at the NGO/CSW/NY office joined us at the event. She was so excited to have been invited and by what she heard that she is already thinking about running for office when she returns home after completing her studies.

Women globally could learn so much from WePower’s prototype. It is our hope that next year’s  Commission on the Status of Women theme will focus on this area of the participation of women in decision-making  so that, perhaps, WePower could be showcased as an example of how states might fulfill their promise to bring women into the conversation.