As Israel prepares to welcome in a new Knesset to lead the Jewish state forward, WIZO has made a major push to ensure that women's issues and equal representation are on the forefront of the political and governing agenda. Several important initiatives launched by World WIZO and WIZO Israel, in conjunction with other leading women's rights NGOs and organizations, have served to mobilize both politicians and their electorates to remember the over 50% of the population – women – whose representation has largely been marginalized in governing bodies.
The outgoing Knesset well illuminates glaring gender inequality in Israel society. In the last Knesset, only 1/4 of Knesset members and 1/3 of Knesset committee leaders were women. Only four out of 20 ministers were women – a dismal 1/5. Equally worrying, only 1/5 of heads of government offices and institutions were female.
To mobilize the public and put increased pressure on policy makers, WIZO started an online petition demanding that party heads that "half of employees in government institutions in the positions of ministers, CEOs in government offices and heads and members of Knesset committees be women."
On International Women's Day, in participation with women's internet site Saloona, WIZO Israel held a special conference ranking the various major political parties on their prioritization of advancing women. The over 600 women who attended the event at the Na Laga’at Center in Jaffa were also treated to a roundtable panel discussions with female MKs and candidates from political parties as diverse as an all women's Haredi party to the left-wing Meretz party.
The rankings were determined by analyzing all major political parties on a variety of factors , including the number of female representatives on the party list, legislation and action promoting women’s rights, as well as the path to women's entry into the party.
Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party, arrived at the conference to both accept first place and address voters. "So long as there is discrimination against women in Israel, I can't be whole with my masculinity," Lapid declared, in an effort to emphasize the fact that equality for women is a men's issue as well. "As long as women receive lower wages than men, then I as a man do not know if I am better or if I simply belong to the right gender… I am determined to fight [discrimination] because I want to enjoy being a man without apologizing for it, because a real man knows that women are equal in every way.”
Second place was awarded to Meretz, who have 50% women, with Zionist Union, 38% women, receiving third place.
The event concluded with a roundtable panel discussion on women's issues with leading female politicians. Participants included MKs Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehud,); Michal Rozin (Meretz), Gila Gamliel (Likud), Yifat Kariv (Yesh Atid), Knesset candidate Tali Poloskov (Kulanu), Knesset candidate Noa Erez (U’Bzchutan), and Knesset candidate Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin (Zionist Union). The participants answered pressing questions on issues such as employment, the wage gap, equal parenting, discrimination and retirement age.