New program to increase employment for Arab women

NGO marks International Women's Day by promoting education in northern Arab villages; targets Beduin women in Negev.

Ranin Deeb 370 (photo credit: The Abraham Fund Initiatives)
Ranin Deeb 370
(photo credit: The Abraham Fund Initiatives)
International Women’s Day was marked on Friday and the The Abraham Fund Initiatives for the integration and equality of Arab citizens on Thursday kicked off 2013’s yearlong education program for Arab women in their villages.
On Thursday, the fund opened up five courses in northern Arab villages with a new program to promote education among Arab women. The Partners for Life program is running five ongoing classes in northern Arab villages and two new classes in the Negev that target Beduin women, with around 200 participants in total.
The co-executive directors of the fund in Israel, Amnon Be’eri-Sulitzeanu and Mohammad Darawshe, traveled on Thursday to northern villages for the first day of classes. Be’eri-Sulitzeanu spoke to The Jerusalem Post at the first class in the village of Nahf, and said the fund initiated the program in 2007 and it has become a “successful start-up.” The fund says that 63 percent of students find work after the course and the success rate of the program continues to increase every year.
“The government recognized the success of the program and it should soon be under government control. The question is how fast and efficient the transition will be,” he said.
Be’eri-Sulitzeanu adds that after the 2011 social protests and the resulting Trajtenberg Report, the state decided a few months ago to take over the program and expand it to 50 locations. He says that when they started the program, the government did not want any part of it because they believed that Arab women did not want to work and that cultural reasons would come into play, as husbands would not allow their wives to leave the home.
“But we knew there were Arab women who wanted to work,” said Be’eri- Sulitzeanu, emphasizing that there is high demand for the courses and that the services the government provides are essential in making their integration successful, but are currently inadequate.
Areas requiring increased government assistance include providing access to jobs, better public transportation in the Arab sector, access to daycare, and the establishment of industrial zones in or near Arab areas, which do not yet exist.
According to the fund, statistics show that today, Arab women have a 25% employment rate while Jewish women’s rate is 70%. Moreover, half of the Arab women are only working part-time.
Generally, Arab women work primarily in Arab towns, in jobs under the minimum wage and without full benefits.
Research links the low rate of employment to various factors: location and type of town, low education level, not enough work experience, the limited local Arab job market, lack of public transportation in the Arab sector, lack of daycare facilities, low level of Hebrew and more. Another issue is that many Jewish workplaces do not allow women to wear head scarves.
The training is in the areas of Hebrew, resume writing, computers, and personal and community empowerment. There are three times as many applicants for the program than there are places and the courses are fully subsidized, according to Be’eri-Sulitzeanu.
At the inauguration of the course in Majd el-Kurum, Mayor Muhammad Mana gave a speech to the students, wishing them success and expressing his support for the program. He told the Post that the program has been very effective and that the people support it, estimating that at least 60% of women in his village are employed.
Ranin Deeb, a teacher who manages the fund’s program in Majd el-Kurum, says that all of the students are married with children and most of them married early and know little Hebrew. They mostly have a high school education, but seem to lack a matriculation certificate. She says that the women usually find jobs in call centers, daycare, sales, customer service or as assistants to elementary or kindergarten teachers, One of the students starting the class, Hanin Serhan, told the Post that her husband did not have a problem with her working and that she and those around her are happy she is taking the course, saying she found out about the course from a flyer her son brought home from school.
Asked why she wanted to take the course, Hanin – who is 24 with one child and no work experience or matriculation certificate – responded: “I just want to study, work and leave the house.”
Deeb says that she comes from a good background, compared to some of the other women who come from troubled families. She adds that Arab society is changing and that today it is more accepted for women to go out of the house and work.