AMMAN: When Wafa Bani Mustafa decided to run for Jordan’s Parliament in 2010, using the newly created women’s quota, few believed she could win. The mother-of-two faced resistance both in her village Suf and the Jerash district.
“I ran for office at age 31, the minimum age allowed to run for Parliament,” she told Arab News.
However, Bani Mustafa had a clear idea of her campaign platform from the outset. “I decided to focus on the needs of working mothers,” she said. Not only did the lawyer overcome the odds to emerge victorious, she has since run for Parliament twice and won.
However, it would take Bani Mustafa three parliamentary terms before she was able, along with others, to introduce and pass legislation that advances the rights of working women.
The difficulties that women in Jordan encounter daily are not limited to the workplace. The House of Representatives was a microcosm of the country’s conservative, male-dominated society. “When I ran for the leadership of a parliamentary bloc in 2011, I was criticized by some of my male colleagues,” she recalled.
Today Bani Mustafa is Jordan’s leading female parliamentarian, having served on the board of the National Council on Human Rights and campaigned for a change in the law that stops Jordanian women passing on their citizenship to their children.
But of all Bani Mustafa’s achievements, the one that gives her greatest satisfaction is her successful campaign to overturn a Jordanian law that allowed rapists to escape punishment if they married their victims. “It is the change of Article 308 that left a mark,” she said.
True to form, Bani Mustafa has not restricted her advocacy of women’s rights to the relatively limited ambit of Jordan. She has headed the committee of the pan-Arab Women’s Parliamentary Commission dedicated to combating domestic violence.
“I am a feminist and I believe in feminism and want more women to fight for feminist issues, but I also have opinions and ideas about all of society,” she said.
“We need to work a lot on our culture and society, as they have in Tunisia. Most of the rest of the Arab world is still struggling in this area.”