Next week, senior Ministry of Transportion officials will meet with eleven Arab Israeli mayors to present a public transportation plan for their towns. The plan, called “Alternatives,” was initiated by NIF grantee Kayan (Being): The Feminist Organization for Women in Arab Society.
“Several years ago we wanted to run an empowerment course for the women of the Galilee Arab town of Maghar,” recounted Rula Deeb, Executive Director of Kayan. “When we asked women if they would attend, a large proportion told us they could not because the community center was too far from their homes and there was no public transportation in the town.”
Further research by Kayan demonstrated that a lack of mobility for Arab women is a major problem throughout Israel, keeping women tied to their homes and unable to reach places of employment. In Arab families that can afford a car, its use is typically reserved for the husband. Lack of buses also prevents women from reaching health clinics, schools and other important locations.
In 2005, Kayan inaugurated a pilot bus service in Maghar, and most of the women in the town reported that the service transformed their lives. Together with the Ministry of Transportion, Kayan drew up the “Alternatives” program, which will operate bus service in 11 towns including Umm El Fahm, a city of more than 40,000 residents.
The bus services should be profitable enterprises in addition to creating employment opportunities.