The Abraham Fund with the support of the Israeli government is using education to empower Israeli Arab women to change their lives for the better. Due to elements of patriarchal culture within Israeli Arab society, many Israeli Arab women are marginalized and suffer from lack of education, poverty and domestic violence. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, some 3,000 Israeli Arab girls are forced to get married under the age of 18, thus entering into lives full of violence and poverty.
Samah Suleima Agbarieh, a social worker in Lod, reported, “In the past year Arab women were murdered […] and more than 1,000 babies were born to teen mothers… in the south a girl murdered her elderly husband, another girl was attacked with acid, in Tira a man murdered his sister because she was working, and more shocking incidents occur all the time. Many women are quietly suffering and no one receives help or support.” Thus, in this light, the lack of Israeli Arab female representation in the work force and higher education is merely one of many symptoms for the general oppression endured by Israeli Arab women.
The Abraham Fund believes that helping Israeli Arab women to join the workforce and become more educated will help them break “out of the vicious circle of poverty,” as well as male hegemony, which continues to “detriment […] the status of Arab Women. […] The Abraham Fund maintains that the integration of Arab women in the labor market will improve the economic and social status of Arab women, expand integration of Arab citizens in Israeli society, and economically empower Arab society in general.”
Indeed, there is much work to do in this direction. According to the Abraham Fund’s website, “Arab women – especially in rural settings – are Arab society’s most significant untapped economic resource. In 2006, Arab women’s participation in the workforce was a mere 19%, significantly below both that of Arab men (59.7%) and of Jewish women (56.0%).” However, since 2006, the number of Israeli Arab women participating in the workforce has risen to 25 percent. As Sami Arumash Mahmid, spokesman for Haifa’s Arab sector claimed, “Arab women have undergone a significant change in recent years. There is a greater awareness to rights and higher levels of education.”
The Abraham Fund, with the blessings of the Israeli government, helps to foster this environment of improvement in the status of Israeli Arab women. Since 2007, they have been offering courses in Arab villages that help Israeli Arab women by offering training programs in Hebrew, CV writing, computer lessons, and various other courses. The Abraham Fund claims that 63 percent of their students manage to find work after completing their courses. Thus, with the time, the Abraham Fund should be able to significantly enhance the status of the Israeli Arab women.
By Rachel Avraham