Jusur Forum meets in Majd Al Krum
Women’s Group in Majd Al Krum hosts Kayan and the Jusur Forum of Arab Women Leaders
On September 4th, the women’s activist group in Majd Al Krum hosted Kayan and the third regional assembly of the Jusur Forum of Arab Women Leaders. With over 40 women activists representing more than 17 Arab villages, the meeting provided an important opportunity to bolster cooperation in the strengthening and empowerment of women across the country. Participants met to follow up on the projects and activities of Arab women’s groups throughout Israel in 2012 and to deepen discussion of the Forum’s national priorities, including the strengthening of Arab women in intra-community conflict transformation.
The Forum of Arab Women Leaders seeks to develop and institutionalize the Arab women’s movement in Israel by increasing awareness of the status of women at both the local and national levels and by working together in the service of the Arab society through various need-based initiatives in the field. By responding to the most pressing needs of the women of their communities, activists across the region are improving lives in direct and concrete ways.
The meeting was opened by Kayan’s Department of Community Work Coordinator Rafah Anabtawi, who highlighted the critical role being played by women leaders in the social, economic, political and national well being of the Arab community in Israel. Through a diverse spectrum of ongoing programs, Arab women’s groups are having remarkable impact on the personal and public lives of Arab women throughout the country. Importantly, these programs are tailored to local needs and consequently, each initiative represents a unique contribution to the promotion of the status of women. Suheir Hussein, for example, is the leader of the women’s activist group Amwaj in the village of Deir Hanna and has been an active member of the Jusur Forum of Arab Women Leaders since 2010. Suheir and her fellow activists have been working tirelessly to promote the status of Arab women in general and of single women in particular. This unique initiative, which recognizes the restrictions imposed upon single women by a patriarchal society, strives to promote independence and opportunities for self-realization among Arab women. Addressing the assembly, Suheir illuminated the long-term, incremental development of her project, including the various challenges and achievements of the group. Among their most important accomplishments, Amwaj has reached more than 50 single women of Deir Hanna and encouraged their participation in the various programs organized in cooperation with the local women’s council, Kanz, Kayan and the Arab Association for Human Rights. The group is also breaking new ground at the forefront of an innovative health rights program in cooperation with Kayan and the Galilee Society – the Arab National Society for Health Research and Services.
Participants also followed up with issues discussed in previous meetings of the Forum, including the role of Arab women in conflict resolution and state discrimination leading to the marginalization of the Arab national minority in Israel. Though women were emphasized as an integral part of the Palestinian people and of the Arab minority within Israel, their involvement is not limited to women’s issues. Rather, as fundamental stakeholders in the Palestinian social and political realms, there is an urgent need for empowerment on all levels in all fields. In this context, Mr. Ahmed Khalifa of the Arab Association for Human Rights spoke about the political status of Palestinians in Israel, reviewing the historical milestones of Palestinian society and stressing the importance of women’s participation in political and national affairs.
This discussion was followed by a lecture and workshops addressing the concepts of rights and duties of the Arab minority within a self-defined Jewish state. Participants addressed such controversial issues as participation in Israel’s national civil service. The women upheld their right to refuse governmentally mandated civil service and reject the conditioning of civil rights upon a rejection of their minority status. Ms. Tammam Shalash of the women’s group in Arabeh commented, “We are dealing with critical issues. As leaders, we must defend our rights as women and as part of a national minority. We will continue to work in a variety of ways until we realize our full rights.”
The meeting’s conclusion featured a summary evaluation of the meeting and of the strategic program of the Forum. Participants reiterated their duty to enhance feminist awareness within the national political discourse, which impacts every Arab citizen, women and men alike. The activists were unanimous in their support of developing the Forum as a framework for individual and group communication for the sustainable development of women’s leadership development. They affirmed the importance of the Forum in honing their identity as leaders, expanding their knowledge and skills, and providing the tools needed to bring about genuine social change for the benefit of Arab women.