“Getting to know Kayan“ – Part II: Vision.
As an agent of feminist social change, Kayan’s goal is the removal of gender as an obstacle to human agency; we seek to empower politicized women to make choices that produce feminist outcomes. To challenge the exclusion of Arab women as decision-makers, Kayan has undertaken to redefine vocabulary at the heart of our goals. The word “political,” for example, long synonymous with frameworks of decision-making exclusively for men, is conferred new meaning more suited to our vision of social change. In Kayan’s view, a politicized woman is a decision-maker who practices choice, has ownership of her actions, and bears responsibility for the resulting outcomes.
Through a process of politicization, Kayan empowers women to expand their spheres of influence. A “sphere,” as such, is not defined by a woman’s family status, professional rank or socio-economic stratum, but by the breadth of her influence: as an individual, able to practice choice and prioritize her own current and future needs; as a family member, able to influence the values of her children, spouse and other relatives; as an employed professional, able to impact decision-making processes and corporate courses of action; as a teacher, sharing her vision of society with a new generation of change makers; or as a grassroots activist, identifying and responding to the needs of her community. This outlook redefines politics as the extension of influence, a concept that extends far beyond election to public office. A woman’s political self can therefore be developed and strengthened in any number of domains, manifesting in an ability to set her own civic, economic, educational, health, familial and social agendas. Kayan’s role, therefore, is not to advocate whom an individual woman should become, but rather to help politicize women as decision makers, empowering them expand their reach as agents of social change.
Kayan views politicized action as a cyclical process, rather than as a status, through which an Arab woman becomes increasingly aware that her position as an individual correlates directly with the status of women in society as a whole. As an empowered and cognizant decision-maker, she must then acquire the means to take action. This might include, for example, developing communication skills or new methods of effective group leadership. She would concurrently investigate the opportunities available for the deployment of such resources. Once these have been effectively deployed, she returns to a process of awareness-building, investigating the impact of her choices, the consequences of her successes and failures, and the changes affected in the environment around her. Subsequent decision-making may have need for additional resources, such as advanced skills training or facilities for a community-based initiative, through which there may emerge new opportunities for women to affect their realities.
To sustain this cycle of learning, growth and action, a mechanism was needed through which Arab women may become more able to expand their spheres of influence and safeguard the changes they bring about in society. In 2008, Kayan launched Jusur (meaning ‘bridges’ in Arabic), bringing an important institutional framework to its empowerment work and ensuring the durability of myriad initiatives for social change. Jusur comprises an infrastructure that enables empowered women to engage their communities effectively and sustain their activism for social change. It is through Jusur that Kayan aims to develop, strengthen and institutionalise the grassroots movement of Arab Women in Israel.
If you have enjoyed reading the second part of our “Getting to know Kayan” – series please check out the next article about Kayan’s models of action to be released online in February 2012.