“Together we can live better” – Arabeh Women for Change Commemorate International Women’s Month.
Local women leaders in Arabeh denoted March “the month of women” reflecting a broad spectrum of events pertaining to women and the issues that affect them, including Mother’s Day, International Women’s Day and Land Day. Their celebration, a joint initiative of Arabeh Women for Change, Kayan-Feminist Organization and the Arabeh Local Council, took place in the Mahmoud Darwish Cultural Center in Arabeh. This large gathering of women and men was also attended by the Arabeh Local Council Chairman Omar Nassar, the Director of Social Services and other local authority representatives from the village. Event organizers delivered a resounding call to all members of the community to redouble efforts to eliminate gender-based discrimination and improve the status of women.
Leading the evening’s program was Ms. Nevin Badarneh, an activist in the group. Extending greetings to the audience, she offered thanks for all of the work being done to raise the status of women in Arabeh and throughout society at large. In his own words of welcome, Local Council Chairman Omar Nassar reiterated his moral and financial commitment to the local women’s group. He stressed the importance of further work and appealed for widespread cooperation to achieve the greatest level of success possible.
Arabeh Women for Change Group Coordinator, Bushra, presented the work of the activists and summarized the group’s outstanding achievements. She also touched upon the challenges and difficulties that stem from a patriarchal society that is reluctant to embrace women and their capabilities, which reinforces divisions between women and men, and imposes restrictions on those who seek societal change on behalf of women. Bushra detailed the obstacles faced in securing adequate budget allocations from the village council and in building effective partnerships with other local institutions. She also highlighted the critical contributions being made by the women’s group to bridge gaps between men and women.
Rose, another activist of the group, then presented an assessment of the status of Arab women and aspirations for the future. The evening’s program took a light-hearted approach to the issue of women’s right to inheritance through the stand up comedy of Ahmed Dakhan and Jumana Haddad. The program concluded with the songs of Shab Abed, which celebrated Arab women and the land.
This celebration was the culmination of the continuous efforts of local women in Arabeh ongoing since 2008, a journey that began with personal and group empowerment facilitated by Kayan in cooperation with the Department of Social Affairs. Over the years, the Arabeh Women for Change have evolved to become a model of professional and systematic women’s community activism. Their unprecedented achievements include bringing the issue of women’s rights to inheritance to the public agenda for the first time. This was accomplished in spite of great sensitivity surrounding the issue and an acute reluctance on behalf of the community to open this discussion.
The Arabeh Women for Change also brought forth the issue of gender equality in the allocation of Arab local authority budgets. Through its participation in Kayan’s program, Gender Equality in Local Budgets, these pioneers brought the subject of gender responsiveness to the public agenda, catalyzed the formation of a municipal committee to bolster their efforts and secured a public budget allocation of NIS 100,000 to improve the status of women.
Rafah Anabtawi, Kayan’s Coordinator of Community Work who has accompanied the group professionally since its inception, remarked, “What we are witnessing today in Arabeh, and we have seen thus far, is that Arab women are more than capable of bringing about societal change. Given the chance and the requisite resources, they have the ability to influence the balance of power in society.” She called on all of the institutions of the Arab society to strengthen their efforts and cooperation with women in order to bridge the gaps between men and women. “A society in which women remain marginalized,” she said, “no doubt remains weak.”