Women Reborn

Social Empowerment for Palestinian Women

Women Reborn was the inspiration of Ibtisam Mahameed, a religious Muslim feminist who has been active in CRT interfaith activities since 2001. The program began in 2008 and has had a significant impact on the participants, their town, and the region. In September 2011, the program expanded to two nearby villages. WEP Group Women Reborn is now active in Fureidis, Jisr al Zarqa, and Ein Sahalla three Arab villages in northern Israel. The basic program includes a fundamental course on women’s empowerment, instruction in Hebrew, computer skills training, job training and placement, training and support for the development of small businesses, and social and community development. The women participating are (or are descended from) Muslim Palestinians who remained in their homeland after the 1948 war. Although they are Israeli citizens, most speak only rudimentary Hebrew, and most live in poverty. As Arabs living in Israel, they are culturally and geographically isolated, and they face ongoing discrimination. Trauma from the violence of the past 60 years is an additional barrier to full participation in public life
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During the first year, 23 women participated in the program. By year three, over 250 women were actively involved, and over 1,500 had participated in at least one Women Reborn event. At the start, few could conceive of having a goal for themselves. Now women are going back to school; getting jobs or starting their own businesses; taking courses in leadership, fundraising, and nonprofit administration; and becoming politically involved. Their progress has had a profound impact on their families – especially their daughters. Given the extended family structure that forms the basis of Arab cultural life, literally thousands of people have been affected by the program. One of the highlights of the first year was the involvement of the women in the mayoral election in November, 2008. Women Reborn hosted a “candidates forum” and over 300 women turned out – a groundbreaking event in a village where women have until now been largely invisible. They went on to spearhead a successful campaign in support of the candidate who was most committed to women’s issues. The election has inspired women across Israel, regardless of religion or national identity. As a result of the new political leadership, the Women Reborn program in Fureidis is now financially supported by the municipal government and an entire floor of the new municipal center has been allocated for women’s activities. Women Reborn represents a unique alliance. The founder and director, Ibtisam Mahameed, is a devout Muslim from the local village. All of the teachers are Muslim Palestinians. Administrative support comes from Israeli Jewish feminists who believe strongly in the project. Documentation and evaluation is being done on a volunteer basis by CRT. Funding comes in part from the J.A. Clark Charitable Trust in England, The Alan and Nesta Ferguson Trust in England, the Oberle Foundation in Germany, and CRT. For futher information: