The election of four women mayors out of six that ran as candidates in Sunday’s municipal elections was a positive step and should be a clear message to political parties that they need to change their ways to promote more women for leadership posts, gender equality activists said on Monday.
Of the 36 municipalities where elections took place, four will be headed by women. Of the six female candidates running for mayors in the municipal elections, four were elected to the top job.
Fotoula Hadjipapa is Lakatamia’s first female mayor, who surged ahead of her three co-candidates with 44.3 per cent of the votes, more than double of her closest contender, Argyris Papanastasiou. Hadjipapa ran as independent but was backed by Akel and the Citizens’ Alliance.
The other three newly elected women mayors are Rita Elisseou-Komodiki for the Kyrenia municipality, Zena Lysandrou-Panayidi for Lefkoniko, and Eleni Mylona-Hadjimichail for Akanthou. Hadjimichail’s sole co-candidate was also a woman, Sotiroula Mavri-Pourou.
In the Strovolos municipality former Akel MP, Stella Misiaouli, lost the elections by 136 votes to Andreas Papacharalambous. The Greens’ Efi Xanthou came third in Aglandjia.
As regards local community elections, almost half of the female candidates who ran, won. In total, 54 women ran as candidates and 22 were elected.
“This is a positive step forward. It is clear that when women are put on the lists people are more likely to vote for them,” the director of the Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies(MIGS) Susana Pavlou told the Cyprus Mail.
If you look at the statistics, there were no women mayors in the 2011 elections, and only one in 2006, Nicosia mayor Eleni Mavrou, Pavlou said.
She added that despite this positive development, only 6per cent of the total number of candidates in these elections were women. “An appalling percentage, just not good enough,” she said.
“According to a recent survey of the University of Cyprus voters do still consider leadership a male arena but they too recognise women’s ability to lead, as was evident also in the parliamentary elections.”
Paphos has the most female community leaders. Of the 12 women who ran as candidates, eight won the elections. The villages of Ayios Nicolaos, Amargeti, Anadiou, Asproyia, Kato Arodes, Milia, Tala and Stavrokonnou all have female community leaders. In Stavrokonnou, the sole two candidates for the job were both female.
In the Larnaca district, the new leaders of the communities of Zygi, Kofinou, Layia, Mari-Vasiliko, Pyrga and Choirokitia are women. In total, there were 11 female candidates.
Female candidates also did well in Famagusta as of the five who ran, three won in the communities of Engomi, Spathariko, and in the occupied community of Angastina.
In the Nicosia district of the 14 female candidates, only three won, those in Pera, Anthoupolis refugee housing estate and Pigainia. In Limassol too, only two of the 12 female candidates were elected in the villages of Asomatos and Kellaki.
Last year, Cyprus ranked fourth last among EU countries in terms of the percentage of female representation in the government, according to a survey, while in terms of local government, only 18 per cent of the municipal boards were women.
“They say that women don’t put themselves up for leadership posts, but it is more complex than that. We don’t have a welfare system to help women and men balance work and family life,” Pavlou said. In addition, she said, the responsibility also lies with political parties. “How do they promote, recruit or prepare women for political positions?”
Voters are ready, Pavlou said, and this should be a clear message to political parties.