On Wednesday, July 7th, YEDID intern, Montana Skurka joined the Rahat and Lakiya Let’s Get to Work! groups as they celebrated at an emotional graduation ceremony.
One need not look to history books or the media to find heroic figures. I was fortunate to learn this lesson on Wednesday, July 7th, when I had the honor of attending the Let’s Get to Work! graduation ceremony for two groups that recently finished in Rahat and Lakiya. About thirty Bedouin women gathered together in a park in Ya’ar Lahavim, with the Rahat Citizen Rights Centre Director Raida and other project staff to discuss the impact of this employment readiness course on their lives and celebrate their successes.
As each woman eloquently spoke of overcoming great hurdles in order to find a means of self-employment, their conviction and determination was evident. Prior to attending the Let’s Get to Work! course, these women were essentially secluded to their homes. In the Bedouin communities in which they live, women are not given the opportunity to graduate high school, and many do not know how to speak Hebrew. These women are expected to get married and have children, and most Bedouin men do not allow their wives to work.
However, each woman present shared a deep desire to provide income for her family. As driven individuals, these women had great potential to use their creativity and intelligence to create a business. It is clear that all they needed was the empowerment and practical skills they received from YEDID’s Let’s Get to Work! program.
One woman credited the Let’s Get to Work! program with enabling her to utilize her inner potential to defy the odds and ultimately turn “one shekel into a house”. This woman lived with her husband and his controlling family in the Bedouin city of Rahat. Her dream was to earn money to gain independence for herself and her nuclear family to allow her to gain some freedom in a place of her own. Despite opposition from her husband, she found commodities that she could purchase inexpensively, and would then sell them for a profit in neighborhoods that did not have access to these commodities.
Thus, from a single shekel with which she bought her first product that she sold, she continued her trade and saved the money she earned. Ultimately, she made enough money to build a house for herself, her husband and children, and they were able to move away from her husband’s controlling family. Once her husband saw her great success, he became one of her most steadfast supporters, and she continues her successful trade.
This inconspicuous gathering in a park in the Negev desert is an example of the power of women. I felt this dynamic quality greatly as I listened to these women speak of their hardships and of their triumph. It seemed quite evident at that moment that "kol isha yechola"—every woman can succeed, if she truly wants to. These are the noble women that we should also study in school, women who despite adversity, when given a chance, have blossomed into self-confident and able women who can provide a positive role model for their daughters.
Montana Skurka, from Toronto, Canada, is interning at YEDID this summer, writing articles for the website and volunteering in Ashkelon's Storyhour program for Ethiopian-Israeli children. In the fall she will be starting her senior year at Queen's University.
Let's Get to Work! in Rahat and Lakiya was generously funded by UJA Federation of New York.