Women’s leadership in municipalities

Reform efforts between opportunities and challenges - insights from the Insight Session on 5 February 2024

Manal Abdallat at the celebration of the woman's day

As part of the network activities in the MENA region, an insight session was held on 5 February 2024 to delve into the opportunities and challenges influencing women’s leadership and representation in municipalities.

Gender equality and the inclusion of women in decision-making processes has been catapulted to the forefront of the political debate in the last few decades in the MENA region. Efforts to promote women's leadership in municipalities are promising, with some states implementing policies aimed at increasing women’s representation. Despite this progress, persistent challenges such as limited access to education and institutional barriers, hinder women's progress towards leadership positions.

In this insight session, participants have engaged in discussions about the importance of women’s leadership in municipalities and the related challenges, while acknowledging the progress that has been achieved. Dr. Manal Al-Abdallat, the director of the women’s regional network at the Greater Amman municipality, has presented an overview of the tools that increased women’s representation in municipalities including the establishment of women’s empowerment units. Nonetheless, she highlighted that women’s limited access to funds for lobbying limits their chances of success in election campaigns. An additional challenge is the phenomenon of nominating a single candidate for tribal representation, which puts women at a disadvantage compared to male candidates.

In his role as a legal expert and developer of electoral laws and systems, Mr. Assem Shaya, has delved into the question of why hasn’t there been a radical change in the elections in terms of women's participation and them securing seats in municipal councils. He cited several reasons including lack of knowledge of the techniques and details of electoral laws, lack of skill in using it, and some stringent requirements for participating and winning the elections that put female candidates at a disadvantage.  Many female candidates are ignorant of the goals of the changing political game in different elections, as well as the discrepancies between their own aspirations and the parties’ strategies.


The presentations and concepts showcased by the speakers have triggered a lively discussion with the participants, who requested to have a sequel session to present insights from the experiences in Tunisia and Morocco. A significant output of this network activity is formulating recommendations for promoting women’s leadership in municipalities in the MENA region.

Recording and presentation od the Insight Session in Arabic:

Muna Shalan, Connective Cities