More than 60 women activists gathered to celebrate International Women's Day and Mother's Day last month at an event devoted to Arab women: their lives, their struggles, the changes challenging them today. SHATIL's Triangle office (named for the area adjacent to the West Bank) organized the day together with five Arab women's organization in the area.
"I live in constant conflict," said Amna Kanani, the 47-year-old founder of L'maanech (For You), a women's empowerment organization she started in 2003 and which collaborated in the day. "Outside, I act like an Israeli," she told NIF News. "But in my society, I am still stuck." Kanani is a past recipient of NIF’s Yaffa London Ya'ari Prize, a scholarship program for women leading social change.
This feeling was brought home to Kanani by three scenes presented by the Arab actress Salwa Nakara representing three Arab women and the way they deal with the societal difficulties they face.
Participants at SHATIL's celebration of International Women's Day in the Triangle Region
"I had never seen an actress live before," said Kanani. "I've never been to the theater. This was true for many of us and we were moved to tears by Salwa's performance. It opened a new world to us and with humor, drove home our situation – how tired we are, how much work we do, how we're viewed as property, how much change lies before us if we don’t want to stay trapped in this small space."
The women also heard Al Tufula head and NIF Board Member Nabila Espanioly speak about the joys – and the price – of Arab women's progress, using her own 30-year process of growth and change as an example. They also participated in four art workshops in which they were asked to express their womanhood.
"At first it was hard," said Aber Gnayem, the SHATIL staff person who co-organized the event. "Most of us had never touched this subject before. But slowly, the women warmed up. One of them said she was taking her new, signed painting home and replacing a store bought painting on her wall with it."
Kanana said this was the first time all the Arab women's organizations in the Triangle and SHATIL collaborated in the celebration of International Women's Day. Gnayem said the joining of forces was especially significant in light of the economic crisis.
The Triangle region comprises a geographic strip along Israel's eastern central corridor. Its 200,000 Arab residents are primarily traditional in nature and reside in 20 villages and towns. The Triangle is crippled by substandard education, high unemployment, failing infrastructure, minimal public activities and municipalities in severe financial crises.