(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Arab women suffer great difficulties as they join the workforce in greater numbers, Joint List MK Haneen Zoabi told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
“This is an issue that has to be a top priority,” since employment provides Arab women with independence and security, she said.
Employment gives them “an entry ticket into the public sphere,” said Zoabi.
On Tuesday, Zoabi held several meetings of Arab women in the North, aiming to provide them with more information about their rights as well as to offer them support.
The widespread abuse and exploitation of women in the workplace is difficult to deal with because of the fear of being fired from their jobs, she said. This is especially the case with Arab women who have difficulty finding proper employment.
Increasing numbers of women working should lead to an improvement in economic conditions and help end the cycle of poverty, but these expectations are not met among working Arab women in general, and in the periphery specifically.
Many women make far less than the minimum wage, with some earning as little as NIS 8-13 shekels an hour.
Furthermore, much of the employment arrangements are made without the proper paperwork and lack pension benefits.
Another issue is the failure of employers to pay women travel expenses while demanding that they work on weekends and evenings when public transportation is unavailable.
“As Arabs they are discriminated against in the employment market and as women they are discriminated against once they are employed,” she said.
Recent research suggests that Arab women with advanced academic degrees suffer similar problems, Zoabi noted, arguing that a much firmer stance must be taken with employers.
Zoabi’s current campaign seeks to empower women and provide them with both information and practical support, such as referral to legal services.
The state also needs to do more, she added.