Taking Israeli women’s empowerment global

Mazal Renford brings the local model of entrepreneurship to the world; ‘The idea is to do something from nothing.

(photo credit: UNMULTIMEDIA.ORG)
NEW YORK – At 64 and technically retired, entrepreneur and public speaker Mazal Renford is showing no signs of slowing down.
Renford has been part of the Israeli delegation to UN Women for the past decade, and works with MASHAV, the Foreign Ministry’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, to coordinate international conferences in Israel for the empowerment and education of women around the world.
Renford said her work in the field “enabled me to build bridges among lots of women, even in the Arab world,” and noted that the twice-yearly MASHAV conference that Israel hosts for women from third-world countries welcomed participants from countries that have no official diplomatic relations with Israel, although for the security of those participants she declined to name the countries.
Women from all over the world are brought to Israel for two weeks for the program, and are trained in how to think in an entrepreneurial manner, whether with “$100, $10, or nothing,” Renford said.
“The idea is, try to do something from nothing. Don’t wait for financial assistance or financial credit or microcredit.
Just start,” she said.
Renford is on a two-month speaking tour in the United States, addressing women’s groups of all backgrounds on the Israeli model of development and entrepreneurship, and specifically on how MASHAV trains and provides women and men with limited resources with tools to help build community organizations, influence education systems, and become full partners in the decision- making processes in the home.
Last week, she lectured at Columbia University in Manhattan and Lehman College in the Bronx, and met with representatives of a Puerto Rican women’s organization.
Renford said she has met with a large amount of Hispanic community leaders and representatives in talks she’s given in Miami, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Boston, and is set to meet with more in Los Angeles.
“Many of them want to learn how to use the diaspora community in these various cities to help their countries of origin,” she said. “So they’re interested to learn what Israel is doing and how we can help them.”
Renford said that she’s been “quite surprised” that she hasn’t encountered any negative reactions during her trip to her being Israeli.
“The Jewish leaders [in these cities] will ask many questions,” she said with a smile. “But the Hispanic leaders just want to understand how our models work; how we develop industrial parks, our entrepreneurial training, and so on.”
Israelis have an interest in promoting other aspects of Israel, showing the country’s contribution to the developing world and sharing its know-how, she said.
“We are considered a laboratory of development,” she said, referring to Israel’s growth from a third-world country to a first-world country in merely 60 years.
“No one can argue that we moved from a poor society to one of the most developed today. This is the model for development, and many countries are recognizing that,” Renford said.