Holistic Empowerment for Arab Women
Of all minority groups in Israel, Arab women are amongst the most disadvantaged. Though their employment rates have risen in the past 15 years, still only 33% of Arab women of working age were employed in 2014. The figure points to one obvious truth: to keep Arab families above the poverty line, and to create brighter futures for Arab children, employment among Arab women must increase, and fast. JDC-TEVET’s time-tested program Rihadiya is the best way to set this change in motion.
Rihadiya was adapted from JDC-TEVET’s Eshet Chayil (or Women of Valor), a program that worked to integrate Ethiopian-Israeli women into the workplace. With the success of Eshet Chayil, Rihadiya was designed to use similar methods to empower Arab women.
Several factors pit Arab women far behind their Jewish counterparts in Israeli society and employability. Significantly, a large percentage of Arab women do not speak or write well in Hebrew, let alone English. Further, cultural stigmas and a lack of resources mean that few Arab women are experienced working with computers, or have any vocational training whatsoever.
Rihadiya is currently working with women in 16 different groups across Israel, with a job placement rate of 53% — a number that’s increasing each year. Women in Rihadiya have found work in a variety of fields, including office administration, retail sales, food services, childcare and more.
A three-year program, Rihadiya is executed in partnership with various government agencies and municipalities. Participating women take part in comprehensive job preparation workshops and counseling, meaning they learn both basic job skills but also address psychological readiness for work, family conflict resolution and how to balance work life and home life.
Women first complete a basic-level job preparation course ensuring they know how to write a CV, handle a job interview and manage their time. Rihadiyah staff, in the meantime, organize childcare services — which is one of the biggest barriers to Arab women finding work. They also encourage and guide women toward completion of their high school education, as well as improving Hebrew, English and basic computer skills
At the completion of the course, Rihadiyah staff connects participants with hiring companies and guide them through the interview process. Staff continues support of participating women even after they’ve been hired to ensure each woman’s smooth integration into the workplace.
Maybe most importantly, Rihadiya makes sure no woman feels alone in her employment journey. Even though she may be one of few women employed in her community, Rihadiya brings participants together in “Job Clubs,” secure forums where they meet to discuss their successes and issues they’ve faced. The club also reinforces communication skills and helps employed women gain the confidence to spread their message: Employment is a necessary step to supporting your family.
When Fatma, now 29, first entered Rihadiya, she had never worked outside of her home. Living in _______, she was an excellent homemaker, but her tumultuous life called for some major changes. Fatma was in the process of a divorce, something she knew was frowned upon in her community. She feared losing the support of her family; getting a job seemed to be the only option to keep herself out of the depths of poverty.
But how could she just get a job? She had no skills, no experience. She had dreams, but no idea how to chase them. Fear and uncertainty gripped her. After she enrolled in a Rihadiya job preparation workshop and underwent some counseling, her attitude began to change.
Fatma had always been interested in the field of dentistry, and her Rihadiya staff encouraged her to sign up for a dental assistant course. The four-month course was intensive, and Fatma soaked up as much knowledge as she could. It was like nothing she’d done before. Paired with the confidence she gained through Rihadiya counseling, her life felt brand new.
Upon graduating from the dental assistant course in mid-2012, her next opportunity was waiting. A dentist who had lectured in the course noted Fatma’s dedication and intelligence. He immediately offered her a job in his clinic. She accepted, naturally, and began the next chapter of her life.