|Leading Bedouin mayors laud women as agents of change|
Israel's two leading Bedouin mayors last week expressed enthusiasm and support for the thoughtful social change plans of a group of young Bedouin women activists.
"I'm very impressed with your projects and I would like to see them implemented in Rahat," Faiz Abu Sahiban, mayor of Israel's largest Bedouin town and chair of the Forum of Bedouin Mayors in the Negev told a group of women graduating from the Shatil-Ma'an Bedouin Women's Rights and Leadership course. Abu Sahiban participated in a panel that responded to the presentation of the women's projects. After welcoming the guests to his town, Dr. Muhammad El Nabari, mayor of Hura, echoed Abu Sahiban's sentiments.
The mayors have the support of the socially conservative Islamic Movement and their attendance and support of the women and their projects was significant for Bedouin society in the Negev.
The 20 course graduates included teachers, university students and leaders in women's NGOs in the Negev. Their field projects, carefully planned to the last detail and part of the graduation requirements of the course included workshops and public education on challenging stereotypes of Bedouin women in curricula, folklore, the media and daily life; raising awareness about equal opportunities and rights for working women; mothers working for children's rights in the unrecognized villages; and support and advocacy groups for mothers of special-needs children.
"The projects reflect a collective women's vision for the way Bedouin society in the Negev should look in the next decade" said Amal El Sana AlHjuj, the course facilitator who was recently named one of 101 most influential Israelis by Haaretz's TheMarker business magazine.
"The graduates' work on the projects was serious, thoughtful and professional and the mayors' endorsement of them sends an important message about women's status as social change agents in the Negev," said Yarona Ben Shalom, co-director of SHATIL's Negev branch. "This is a new and welcome development."
Funded through the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Office of the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), the course included personal and group development, gaining knowledge of society, politics, social change, government and world feminist movements; the role of women in the processes of social change; and project development.