Participants of the “Gender Equality in Local Budgets” programme in Yaft An-Nassriye and Arabeh present their final recommendations
On 13 and 19 December 2011, participants of Kayan’s “Gender Equality in Local Budgets” programme presented their conclusions and budgetary recommendations in the Arab villages of Yaft An-Nassriye and Arabeh, respectively. Kayan aims to provide women with the tools they need to identify gender-based discrimination in local budgeting processes and bring their influence to bear on an equitable, needs-based allocation of public resources. The programme empowers participants to critically analyse the various impacts of economic policy, including inter-related systems, laws, budgetary allocations and social initiatives, on the status of Arab women in Israel. By raising awareness regarding the ways in which gender-responsive budgeting can serve as a foundation for genuine social equality, Kayan’s Department of Community work strives to incorporate a new cadre of Arab women leaders within planning and allocation processes in their communities. In 2011, the programme was organised in cooperation with the Tel Aviv-based Adva Center, the local council and community center in Yaft An-Nassriye, and the Arab local authority and women’s center in Arabeh. It is comprised of three stages: preparatory empowerment training, a sixteen-session budget analysis course, and a practical implementation stage.
Kayan facilitated ten additional sessions to help participants process information, conduct follow up, identify priorities at the grassroots, and strengthen working relationships with local authorities in order to formulate budgetary recommendations to support needs-based projects at the local level. In addition, participants in Yaft An-Nassriye conducted informal meetings with local residents and representatives of the local authority to test their conclusions and gather information for use in planning interventions. By asking local women about the kinds of services they require, the group identified a lack of health and sport-related programmes and services for women over the age of forty. The women presented their recommendations in a public seminar under the heading “Women for Equality in Local Authority Budgeting – Challenges and a Vision of Change” which was attended by forty people. Programme coordinator, Reem Zoabi, women’s group representative, Etedeadel Bisharat, Mayor, Imran Kenana, Head of the Department of Sport, Hisham Bisharat, and the coordinator of women’s work in the Yaft An-Nassriye community center, Omayma Sarhan, discussed the needs of local women and how they pertain to the local budget. Practical methods were discussed for the promotion of the status of women and the implementation of budget recommendations. They mayor has endorsed all of the conclusions and recommendations presented.
In Arabeh, course participants drew on a needs assessment survey they had recently conducted through Kayan’s community organising framework, Jusur. For their final presentation, Reem Zoabi hosted a round table discussion between programme participants, Mayor Omar Nassar, Heads of the Departments of Engineering and Social Services Tamim Saadi and Khaled Shalash, and representatives of the local parents’ committee and local council. A request was submitted for an annual allocation to support women’s work as an integral part of the overall budget and to better address the needs of women of the community.
As the group in Arabeh has much experience in the local field, they were keenly aware of the needs and priorities of women in the community. The roundtable was a significant achievement of the group, with the mayor endorsing most of the recommendations. Bushra Awad, an women’s rights activist in Arabeh, remembers the initial stages of the project. “The idea started when the group began to discuss economic issues concerning women in Arabeh. When we went to the council, we had many questions and quickly came to discover that no part of the local budget is allocated to projects or events relating to the women of the town.”
In both Yaft An-Nassriye and Arabeh, the women’s groups proposed the formation of a municipal committee dedicated to improving the status of women in local council decision-making processes. This would be unprecedented, as no such committee has ever before been established in an Arab local councils. The groups requested broad public programmes of women’s activities and services in order to mainstream gender perspectives throughout the full spectrum of Arab local authority policies. In an interview following the seminar, Reem Zoabi said of the project, “Indeed [it] is the first of its kind within Arab society, but its significance lies in the way in which it incorporates women into decision-making within local policy-making and budgeting processes… It allows and relies on women to be active participants and thereby enables them to influence their communities and the lives of other women for the better.”