Hamas' campaign among women contributed to election victory

Hamas' army of women campaigners _ veiled university students knocking on doors and promising housewives a better future _ played a key role in the Islamic militants' election victory.

Women voted in record numbers, and more women than men supported Hamas, pollsters said Friday.

Seventeen of the 132 new legislators, or nearly 13 percent, are women. That's double the share of female legislators in the outgoing parliament, and ostensibly a breakthrough in the male-run Palestinian society.

However, with Hamas commanding a majority parliament and women lawmakers divided over their agenda, change is unlikely. Some women's rights campaigners even fear a backlash against efforts to curtail polygamy, raise the age of marriage for girls or get tougher on men who kill wives or daughters over "family honor."

"It's not just a question of numbers," said liberal legislator Hanan Ashrawi. "There will be more women (in parliament) who are conscious of women's rights ... There will also be women who are not committed to equality."

Hamas activated female supporters in unprecedented numbers. It staged staged rallies for women, and also reached them through through mosques and female preachers, particularly in rural areas. "Hamas had the most organized campaign targeting women," said pollster Nader Said of the West Bank's Bir Zeit University.

Thousands of volunteers, including female university students, were sent door-to-door to deliver Hamas' message _ that Islam protects women, that it offers them equal partnership with men, on the job and at home. While short on details, Hamas campaigners also promised free education for girls.

"We had many activities, such as visiting women in their houses, giving them advice on how to vote," said Hamas campaigner Sahar as-Sharif, 29, who has a science degree from the Islamic University in Gaza City and works in a private laboratory. "Our ideas are what they were looking for", reports AP.


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