The Women Reborn program is a unique collaboration among three groups: women leaders from two Arab villages in northern Israel; Shin, the Israeli Movement for the Equal Representation of Women; and the Center for Religious Tolerance (CRT). The local women provide the vision for their community’s program. The women from Shin provide administrative support as well as theoretical and practical wisdom gained from 25 years of feminist political organizing. CRT provides a variety of resources and plays the role of outside observer, helping the leadership team to see their community work in a larger context. All Shin and CRT activity is provided on a volunteer basis.
Women Reborn was established in Fureidis, a Palestinian Muslim village in northern Israel, in 2008. The program was initiated by Ibtisam Mahameed. In 2011, the program expanded to a second nearby Arab village, Jisser az Zarka. The primary goal of the program is to empower women socially, economically and politically. Activities include leadership educational courses and vocational training; study tours and trips both inside and outside Israel; community projects and events, such as the annual International Women’s Day Celebration; political organizing for municipal elections; and networking with other Arab and Jewish feminist groups.
Women Reborn is designed to empower communities as well as individuals. A local coordinator with in-depth knowledge of the community is hired in each site, local teachers and other staff are hired, and program funds are spent locally whenever possible. The program builds on the unique history and strengths of each site, helping the entire community to grow and change along with the participants.
From the beginning, the women in the program have defined their own goals. Collectively they decide what activities will be offered, and the program accommodates their evolving needs. For example, early on in the program in Fureidis, the women requested instruction in Hebrew to increase their ability to participate in the larger Israeli society. In Jisser, the first priority was literacy training (in Arabic) in order to improve employment prospects. Women Reborn is based on the premise that every woman has a gift to offer to the community and that every woman has the potential to be a leader. Each participant is expected to contribute to the program over and above simply attending classes or attending events. Part of the reason the program has been so successful is that the women have been in charge of their own empowerment process.
Women Reborn has had a direct impact not only on the women involved, but also on their husbands, their children, their extended families, and the other women and men in the villages. The program has worked closely with the municipal government and other community institutions in both villages, and is now widely seen as a positive force for economic and social development.
Coordinator: Ibtisam Mahameed