Women in Bastan Village, Kurdistan

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Welcome to the Womens Club in Arrabeh Village, 09-30-10--Galilee, Israel

We were welcomed in the village of Arrabeh, by five wonderful women. It is a Palestinian village in the Galilee in Israel, one hour away from Haifa. The majority of its 20,000 inhabitants are Muslim. There, we had a meeting with women of the village that have been organizing and gathering now for 2 years. Their group was born out of an empowerment course that was sponsored by Kayan. We heard how their lives were changed after they participated in this group. The women, mothers, wives and now active part of the community, told us how hard is for women to come out of the house and become active.

Two women from the Arrabeh womens group

One of the women told us how, before Kayan's workshop, she had never been out of the house, always busy with her 7 children. “It was hard to get out of the house. Women are not used to get out and participate and volunteer outside of house. It took a while because of the 7 children. I came to make my friend happy. But after some lectures I was convinced by the topics, they were very interesting. They strengthened my personality, gave me self-confidence, I found something to dress up. The way I talked to people changed, after the empowerment training, I was able to convince my husband. The entire village now knows about the group” says the woman.

Reem one of the community organizers from Kayan, which provides support to the group

The women were clear that keeping the group together was not an easy process, but they were able to gain the respect of people. There were internal problems that almost caused the group to break up, but at the end they overcame them. One of the women, one of the few Christians in the village, got a call from one of the religious leaders of the village to address the women’s group discuss strategies to talk to the authorities. This shows that their work with the community has made them gain the respect of other community leaders, crossing the religious borders.

Another woman said “I knew that the work was serious, and I was going to get something important for myself. I dedicated my life to my children and now I wanted something for myself. I needed the empowerment course”. As the conversation moved on, women started to open up and share more personal things. One of them shared that she wanted to become a nurse, but she saw her dream shattered by the fact that women are not allowed to go out of the house, so she quit school because what was the point of finishing high school if there was no option to go to university. Now, she says, she regrets. Now, she is encouraging her daughters to complete their education, because she now knows the importance of it. She wants to raise her children to have opportunities, like she didn’t have. She now is working on finishing high school and getting her diploma. It is basic to get any job, here in Israel.

The women from Arrabeh were very happy to share their experiences with us, in English and Arabic

As the women started to meet after the empowerment course, they started to assess the needs of the women in the community. They realized that despite the age, the women’s needs were the same; they had the same frustrations, the problem of restriction, and the same concern across all ages.

The women organized an event and went to the neighborhood to invite people personally. It was a very important event for them because every woman had the opportunity to stand on the microphone and speak about what the group did for them. They were not sure if the people on the village will come and they were nervous. They put up 300 chairs for the event and Rafah, Kayan’s community organizer was a little skeptical and told them to remove some of the chairs. After 15 minutes, people started to show up, and all the chairs that they took out, they had to put them back. The event was a complete success. The women are very thankful to Kayan, for giving them the space to think and plan on their own.

Now their challenge is to achieve more at the local level with the authorities, their next project is to find a space to have a women’s center. They want a place for them, to meet, to have programs. Now, they do lectures and programs, but is very challenging to find a place that suits their needs. They want to offer courses like Hebrew, computer skills for the women and even First Aid.

The women’s stories were powerful and spoke to the heart. They also spoke of the realities of other women in this village and many other villages that Kayan is working. It shows that is possible to change the realities on the ground, step by step. It just takes a group of women that believe that change is possible and that are willing to take responsibility. Lastly, there was one question about when will there be elected women involved in politics in Arrabi, and although there was some skepticism, some women ventured to say that maybe 10, 15 years. These women are an inspiration to me and show me the real face of the struggle. They give me some hope when I think that it is impossible to change this very complex situation. I hope to come back to Arrabeh, if they have another meeting while I’m here!!!! There was such a positive energy here today……

These women are an inspiration and show what women are capable of doing when they are empowered and working together


  1. Johanna,
    Thank you for this story. It's so inspiring. I want to come teach computer classes to the group! That will be so fun. Keep up the great work, you're amazing.

    Peace and possibilities,

    amanda catherine

  2. Your welcome my dear...these women are fighting from within to change the status of women and give options to the new generations. Don't forget that you are one of the reasons I am here!!!