Second Annual Women of JUSUR Conference
On December 14th, Kayan hosted its second annual conference of the Women of Jusur in the Yaft an-Nassriyye Community Center near Nazareth. This event, attended by over 250 participants representing 16 women’s initiatives, was the culmination of the year’s efforts and a celebration of the achievements of this impressive collection of grassroots community leaders. In response to a massive and unexpected turnout in response to the open invitation of the previous year, event organizers decided to narrow their focus this year to the activists of Jusur, providing them a rare opportunity to network with one another, participate in cooperative workshops and brainstorm creative solutions to common challenges.
Of particular concern was the lack of cooperation and support from the various Arab local authorities concerning women’s initiatives. Arab women in Israel who challenge traditional models of influence and authority and who seek new modes of self-actualization commonly find themselves at odds with the established political echelons. In order to break through such barriers and foster women’s unique and powerful contributions to their society, the Jusur program provides Arab women activists with professional resources and expanded organizational capacities.
Keynote speakers included Dr. Yousef Jabareen of Dirasat – the Arab Center for Law and Policy – and Abed Anabtawi of the Committee for Arab local Mayors. Both spoke of the need to promote women’s involvement in grassroots organizing and community leadership. Dr. Jabareen struck a resounding chord with the women when he called upon the High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, an umbrella organization that represents Arab citizens at a national level, to incorporate formal procedures to address discrimination against women in the Arab society in Israel.
Kayan’s Empowerment and Community Organizer Reem Zoabi believes that Jusur is evidence that Arab women are at the very beginning of a movement. Asked what feminism means to her, Zoabi said, “I think what we’re trying to do here is change the roles that women usually take in our society… We’re talking about women that work at home and we’re trying to…create the space for them to come out, to be more effective, to have their voice heard, and to be part of decision making at the local and national level. That’s why we’re saying ‘movement.’ We want their voices to be heard outside their secure environment and to have a better opportunity to become decision makers themselves.”
Zoabi also appraised the environment that women enter in their journeys of self-actualization. “It’s not always easy… We are talking about this issue as a challenge. It’s not always welcome and it’s not always successful. What we`re trying to say is that we want partnerships, we want the support of the local authorities and we want them to put women in their priorities and to see them as an important part of society.”
Listen to the full interview here