|Celebrating National and Individual Independence|
|Written by Ruby Ong|
As we celebrate the independence of the State of Israel, we also celebrate the steps individual citizens take to achieve personal independence. SHATIL revels in its role as a catalyst for the movement toward freedom and independence of women such as Laila Alzohail, a graduate of two SHATIL trainings. Laila's credits her journey from a silent, abused woman to becoming a leader who empowers other women, to SHATIL's intervention.
"SHATIL is my second home," Laila says. "I was reborn at SHATIL."
At 17, Laila went against her parents' wishes and got married settling with her husband in Rahat, the Negev's largest Bedouin city. Now 34, Laila is the mother of five, works at a school for children with special needs, and is committed to her role as an activist for women's rights.
"When I moved here from Lod, I quickly realized that in the Negev the woman doesn't count. It took me years to get back on my feet," says Laila.
This year, Laila took part in two SHATIL-sponsored trainings for Bedouin women in the Negev, part of SHATIL's Bedouin Women's Leadership Project funded through the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Office of the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI): Dialogue in Education Facilitators' Training, and Beyond Words, a unique women's empowerment workshop. As a result, she became self-aware and self-confident, learned to speak her mind and listen to others, and acquired a new sense of serenity and optimism: "I am braver and more comfortable with myself," she says. "I am no longer afraid of my strength, my power. And I have a far better and more supportive relationship with my husband."
Completing a circle, Laila is now being trained to work at a hotline for victims of sexual abuse by Ma'an, the Forum of Arab Women's Organizations in the Negev. Thanks to her positive experience in Dialogue in Education, she is planning to go back to school and finish her own education.
"The warmth and support I felt from the facilitator and the other participants in the SHATIL trainings is something I don’t get anywhere else," says Laila, who served as the mistress of ceremonies at the course graduation ceremony. "I found my independence at SHATIL."