Manama: Fatima Al Gazal, one of four women running in Qatar's municipal elections next week, said that women could win seats if they are provided with a "level playing field."
"There is no doubt that quota will help more women to become members of the Central Municipal Council," she said. "However, I think instead of giving such a favour to women it would be better to create awareness in the society for recognising Qatari women's abilities and providing them a level playing field for winning membership in the Council through free and fair elections," she told Qatar Tribune daily.
Fatima, the only woman candidate in the Abu Hamour constituency which features seven men, all from the same tribe, said that most Qatari voters voted for candidates based on their tribe and gender.
She said that she was optimistic about winning the election "because I am contesting on a realistic election agenda which I think I will be able to implement."
"I have not promised anything that I feel I will not be able to fulfill. I think my electoral manifesto will be appreciated by my constituents. However, I cannot underestimate the role played by tribes in deciding who will win. We are a country dominated by various tribes and getting their support is necessary to win an election. Since I belong to a tribe that does not have a large population in Abu Hamour, I understand that it is a big challenge to enter the Central Municipal Council."
People often ask me why I didn't contest from a constituency where my tribe is present in large number, but I tell them that my voters will rise above narrow considerations and support me. I think it is always better to contest from the constituency where you reside," she said.
The candidate, a former school principal and a columnist, said that she decided to run for elections to prove that men and women were equally capable to serve the country.
"As a former school principal and a journalist who writes on issues of public concern, I am quite aware of the problems and needs of my constituency. I used my knowledge and suggestions from my constituents to draft my election agenda," she said, quoted by the daily. "After writing stories on the problems of the residents for long, I have come to realise that my constituency is in a bad shape and a lot of work is needed to be done. I decided to take up the responsibility to change the situation, and entering CMC is the best way to do it. I can easily get in touch with my constituents since I have been often raising their problems through my columns in newspapers," she said.
Fatima attributed the limited number of Qatari women running in the elections to the nature of the municipal work and to "the fact that elected members of the council do not have the power to implement the plans or take decisions."
"I hope that more powers will be given to the Municipal Council members in the near future. Currently, the job of CMC members is just to inform the Ministry of Municipal Affairs about their demands and wait and watch if their demands are met or not. For instance, an elected member has to run from ministry to ministry to ensure that problems related to water, electricity and schools are solved," she said.
Her constituency is now witnessing unprecedented expansion due to the rapid development in Doha and to the increasing population.
"In order to meet the demands of the growing number of people, we need to focus on the basic infrastructure. More schools, mosques and green squares must be built to help the people. In my election agenda, I have also sought transfer of bachelor residents from the residential areas. Though there is a plan to build residential complex outside Abu Hamour for bachelors, I will make sure that is implemented at the earliest if I get elected," she said.