Lack of public transportation in Arab villages widens the social gap between the Jewish and Arab population, and alienates Arab women from the rest of society, according to a new report published this week by Arab feminist advocacy organization, Kayan.
Entitled "Mobility Patterns among Arab Women in the State of Israel," the report's authors, Tamar Keinan, Kayan's transport adviser, and Dorit Bar, a transport engineer, studied data from community surveys conducted throughout 2005 in 11 Arab communities in the Galilee and in the area known as the "Triangle," where the majority of Israeli Arabs live.
Seventy percent of the women questioned said they rarely left their villages unaccompanied and that the vast majority of their daily activities took place in the immediate vicinity of where they live.
"What surprised me the most was that 38% of the female population walked everywhere," said Keinan. "I knew the situation was bad but it is much worse than I expected."
Keinan wrote in the report: "Many activities that could have been conducted in the past by walking on foot now require transport by vehicle. The existing means of transportation - the use of cars and public transportation - provide little service for Arab women in Israel. In practice, they suffer twofold discrimination - as Arabs in Israel and as women in a traditional society. The service that they receive from the public transportation system in these villages is deficient: Most of the bus lines do not enter the villages at all, or enter the villages very infrequently."
The lack of mobility severely affects the women's participation in the workforce, according to the report. While 80% of Jewish women between the ages of 25-44 work outside of the home, only around 30% of Arab women go out to work.
One Arab woman told researchers: "I want to go out of the house and attend an empowerment workshop. I want to contribute to the empowerment of other women and to the society, but it is difficult for me to come. If there is no man; brother, father or husband to drive me, I have to go on foot for an hour!"
"We are aware of this being a problem," said Timor Dill, spokesman for Minister of Transportation Shaul Mofaz. "Two weeks ago the minister set up a committee headed by Dr. Faisal Aseiza to look into the situation and it is scheduled to present its findings within the next two months."
However, a spokesman for the Ministry of Transport said that he did not believe there was a serious problem with mobility in Arab villages. "We work with all the local authorities and if there is a request we provide them with the transport they need," said Avner Ovadiah.
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