AMMAN — Ola Thiabat, a candidate for parliament in the Southern Badia District, said her husband’s family forced him to end their marriage after she began her campaign.

“When I first decided to run in the elections, he supported me and paid all my expenses, until his family asked him to persuade me to withdraw from the elections, for the benefit of one of their relatives,” Thiabat told The Jordan Times on the sidelines of a conference organised by the Arab Women’s Organisation (AWO) on Sunday.

When she refused to comply, she said: “He divorced me.”

Thiabat, one of five women running in the Southern Badia, said divorce was “the beginning of a new life”.

“I am following my dream,” the mother of four stressed, adding that her motivation to enter public service came from a desire to change the lives of young women in her area.

“Girls in my district are forced to leave school at an early age because we do not have secondary schools for them,” she explained.

If a girl wants to continue her education, “she has to walk several kilometres to the nearest school”.

“I want better education for the badia girls, and this is my priority if I obtain a seat in parliament,” the candidate declared.

Thiabat is one of the 215 Jordanian women running in Wednesday’s elections.

Among those who took part in Sunday’s AWO conference, each has a different agenda, but most said they wanted more rights for women in their communities and greater representation in parliament.

Sabah Shaal, a candidate in Karak’s 3rd District, said she was running for the third time this year and hoped to finally win.

“My task is convincing women to vote for women and not only men,” Shaal said on Sunday.

On the other hand, Sabah Anati of Zarqa’s 4th District said that while support from women voters was important, she was also counting on the votes of men in her constituency to win.

“When I gave a speech at my campaign headquarters, more than 1,200 men attended,” Anati said.

For Alia Mazaydeh from Tafileh, a seat in parliament would be a platform to lobby for amending the Elections Law and allocating more seats to the women’s quota.

“There are 45 electoral constituencies, and in each constituency, a seat should be allocated for women,” Mazaydeh said.

Currently, of the 150 seats in the Lower House, 15 seats are allocated for women. Laila Naffa, director of programmes at the AWO, said 10 per cent was not enough and that the organisation was lobbying to increase the quota to 30 per cent.

Candidate Najah Abu Haydar, running in Amman’s 5th District, said she was calling for better rights for working women as well as those of young Jordanians.

Laila Touqan, a candidate on a national list, said that although she herself was unlikely to win a seat, she was still campaigning for her list out of dedication to its goals.

“I am listed 11th in my list and sure that I will not win, but I have a role in attracting more voters to the ticket that I believe in,” she said.

Naffa said the AWO planned to launch an initiative after the elections to raise political awareness among Jordanian women and ensure better representation for them in the future.