The future must be equal

Israel's 37th government, with a vast make majority (Photo by Avi Ohayon, GPO)
Israel's 37th government, with a vast male majority, this must change! (Photo by Avi Ohayon, GPO)

When I was first elected as the Mayor of Yoav Regional Council in 2011, there were five other women mayors in Israel and around 250 men. I did not run on a feminist agenda, but in nearly 12 years in office I realized how marginalized women are in the municipal arena, and how important it is to have women in positions of power there and in other arenas.

Through my work, I’ve realized we bring something different to the job. Compassion and empathy. A different perspective and ability to collaborate with others. Different life experience. When there is diversity around the table, the decision-making process is better. It’s more thorough, more focused, takes into consideration more factors, and is less likely to be blind to the needs of different groups in the population.

By the time I was elected as a member of Knesset, the number of women mayors had risen to 15. Three times as many as we were in 2011, but still very far from where we should be. The upcoming municipal elections are a great opportunity to make sure women’s voices are heard in cities, towns, and regional councils across the country and in all sectors of society. As just two examples among many, Israelis can make history by electing trailblazing candidates like my friend Orna Barbivay as mayor of Tel Aviv, or supporting Aliza Bloch for reelection in Beit Shemesh.

From the beginning of my time in the Knesset, one of my top priorities has been promoting women’s representation in positions of power. At the tables where the most critical decisions are made. At the local level, because national change in Israel often begins locally. At the national level, because women’s voices have been seriously lacking at decision-making tables in this government, and the consequences have been crystal clear both before and after October 7th. As this extremist government has consistently blocked legislation that would promote gender equality, sidelined women’s voices and actively reduced female representation at critical junctions, me and many of my Yesh Atid colleagues have emphasized promoting female candidates in the upcoming municipal elections and raising the topic of gender equality in every possible forum.

Israel’s 37th government, with a vast male majority, this must change! (Photo by Avi Ohayon, GPO)

On that note, on February 13, exactly two weeks before the municipal elections rescheduled for February 27, I will be convening a special event at the Knesset – “Local Female Leader.” At this event, I will present some very interesting findings from a survey recently conducted on my behalf, and we’ll discuss various aspects of female leadership surrounding the tragic events of October 7th as well as the upcoming municipal elections. We must work to make sure 2024 will be remembered as a turning point in women’s leadership and representation at decision-making tables in Israel.

About the Author
MK Matti Sarfatti Harcavi was the Mayor of Yoav Regional Council for nearly 12 years, and has been a Member of Knesset for the Yesh Atid Party since November 2022. She has a PhD in plant genetics from the Hebrew University and prior to her election as mayor she was a researcher in vegetable breeding and product manager at Hazera Genetics Ltd. MK Sarfatti Harcavi served as treasurer of the Association of Towns for Environmental Protection in the Ashkelon District, and as Deputy Chair of the Association of Towns. She also served as the representative of the Center of Regional Councils in Israel's Man and the Biosphere Program (MAB) National Committee, as well as the representative of the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel in the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR). MK Sarfatti Harcavi is a recipient of the Green Globe award for 2015 on behalf of Life and Environment, and of the Negev Citation for Environmental Protection for 2017.
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