Friday, June 30, 2006
The question of whether Kuwait’s Thursday election was a success or a failure depends solely on your point of view.
My first reaction upon seeing the following headline in the Washington Post this morning was dismay: “No Women Chosen in Kuwaiti Vote.” Yesterday was a historical landmark, as it was the first time in Kuwait’s history that women could turn out to the polls, and yet none of the 27 female parliamentary candidates were elected. How depressing, I thought.
Yet there are many factors that contributed to the seeming “failure” of this new electoral process, none of which aided the women candidates or women voters in their quest.
(1) Kuwait’s emir, Sheik Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, dissolved parliament in May and moved the election, which was supposed to be held next year, to this month, meaning that the female candidates had only a month to prepare and campaign.
(2) The Kuwaiti women voters faced opposition from both highly conservative men and women. Some of the conservative women, in fact, showed up to heckle the voters in line and to cheer raucously for male candidates.
(3) It was at least 120 degrees outside and the voting stations were not easy to get to.
But now let’s focus on the subtitle of the article, which reads: “Advent of Female Suffrage Seen Forcing Attention to New Issues.” In other words, Kuwaiti women have the power now. They are a large constituency (they make up 60% of the electorate) and candidates will have to tailor their agendas to fit the needs of women if they expect (re)election.
I want to make sure that we don’t read “No Women Chosen in Kuwaiti Vote” and think to ourselves, “women won’t even elect their own to office.” The beginning of this article gets dangerously close to this assumption in saying, “…Kuwaiti women, voting for the first time, chose not to put a woman in parliament in Thursday’s elections.” Well, was it just the women who were voting? Absolutely not. There were conservative voters to combat, not to mention the experience and time that the male parliamentary candidates had.
The results of this election should not point to despair and cynicism, but rather to a powerful hope that, in time, Kuwaiti women will continue to grow in political power. Just looking at the reactions and the determination of many Kuwaiti women should give us a good feeling about what’s to come.
"We'll keep up our struggle and will fight until we see women in parliament," said 42-year-old economist Dashti, who won 1,539 votes, the highest of any female candidate.
I’m the other intern here at YWTF and I’m lucky enough to be writing the second ever post to YWTF’s blog. I first came to YWTF without knowing what to expect. My third day of work was the first day of the YWTF board retreat. Since the building was locked, Katy and I went downstairs in order to wait for the YWTF board members and let them into the building. For some reason, “board member” in my head conjured up images of well-to do men and women in their fifties. I was routinely shocked as we held the door open for the young women board members—most only a few years older than me. It was then that I realized that YWTF was the type of organization that put its principles into practice in the running of the organization.
So while Katy has told you a little bit about the history of the organization, I’d like to tell share some things about where YWTF is heading:
*One of the developments for YWTF that I’m most excited about is the creation of the Alexis Knox Fellowship. This fellowship will allow young women to develop a project that they think will improve women’s leadership and receive funding, as well as personal leadership coaching, from YWTF. Check out our website http://www.ywtf.org/ for more info.
*YWTF is also focusing on improving infrastructure, such as refining the financial reporting structure and streamlining communication between the national level and the chapters.
*As far as events go, YWTF is planning on doing more events that bridge the generational gaps between women, such as planning dinners with YWTF members and members of other women’s organizations.
There’s plenty more interesting events and issues that YWTF will be involved in, so stay tuned. Also, I plan to be writing regularly with cultural and news analysis, as well as talking about specific tools and pitfalls involved in feminist organizing that will hopefully be useful as well as entertaining. Check back often!
Well, this is exciting: the very first post on the YWTF blog! My name's Katy Smith, and I'm a summer intern with YWTF - I'll be making semi-regular posts along with my fellow intern, Dara. For now, I guess I'll just take a minute to say what the Younger Women's Task Force is all about and how it got started.
First, we have the mission statement of YWTF, which should give you a general idea:"Founded in January of 2005, the Younger Women’s Task Force, a project of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, is a nationwide, diverse, and inclusive grassroots movement dedicated to organizing younger women and their allies to take action on issues that matter most to them. By and for younger women, YWTF works both within and beyond the women’s movement, engaging all who are invested in advancing the rights of younger women."
Although we were founded only a year and a half ago, YWTF now has 12 chapters all over the U.S. You can go onto http://www.ywtf.org/ to see exactly where these chapters are and what they're up to, and I highly recommend getting involved with one of them. The YWTF chapters are all linked through our organization, but they also host their own events - we like the term "semiautonomous," even though it may be a bit of an oxymoron. Because YWTF is made up of a network of grassroots movements around the country, and because YWTF recognizes the diversity of views of its members, we don't have specific “younger women’s issues” on which all chapters base their activities. Instead, each chapter is encouraged to address the issues pertinent to their area's younger women, while joining YWTF as a whole when we need to advocate for national (and international) issues.
I think that pretty much covers it! If you're learning about YWTF for the first time, I hope you learned something, and that you'll soon check out our awesome website. If you're already a member of YWTF, I hope this post wasn't too boring for you, but hey, it's always nice to know our values!
***Stay tuned for updates on current events, randomness, and the like. It's gonna get a lot more interesting ;)