More than 500 women from around the country converged outside the Knesset Monday to call on the government to provide working mothers with free day care for young children. "If the State of Israel wants women to go to work and wants to break the cycle of poverty then it should show its support by providing free education for pre-schoolers," Talia Livni, president of Na'amat, a social action and women's advocacy group that organized the demonstration, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview. She pointed out that women made up close to 50 percent of the workforce in Israel but that roughly 400,000 women either do not work or work part-time because they cannot afford full-time day care for their pre-school children. "The price of day care is far too high for many women to even consider going back to work after having a baby," continued Livni, adding that many women who do not work during the first 10 years of child-rearing find it extremely difficult to return to the workforce later on in life. At the demonstration, Livni called on political factions to factor into the 2007 budget free day care for women and families living in the areas of the North and around the Gaza Strip that have been deeply affected in the past year by the security situation. "Gaza region and the North are the first steps," said Livni, estimating that it would cost the government NIS 312 million to implement such a program. "The government is already giving out lots of money to repair the damage in the North following this summer's war; why not invest a little in our children," she said. "If the government wants to break the poverty cycle and encourage citizens to live in the North this is the only way." Livni added that if the State of Israel committed NIS 300 m. each year for the next four or five years then free education for pre-schoolers would reach all working families around the country. Following the demonstration, Livni and other Na'amat representatives met with Labor Party leaders to garner support for the program and to encourage them to push through an allocation for it in next year's budget. Livni said she believed she would find support for the program.