[News] Poverty rife among Bedouin women denied status by Israel
news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Aug 3 10:40:13 EDT 2011
Poverty rife among Bedouin women denied status by Israel
2 August 2011
TEL AVIV (IRIN) - More than 180,000
live in the
(Naqab) desert but there is a big gap in terms of
life opportunities between those Bedouins who
live in 35
villages, and those for whom Israel has created
seven towns or who live in seven officially
recognized villages, say human rights workers.
Those in unrecognized villages face a constant
threat of eviction and are cut off from even
basic services. Aside from the threats to their
homes, not enough is being done by Israel to lift
these Bedouin communities out of poverty, they say.
Amal Elsana al-Hajooj, a Bedouin woman living in
the Negev and the director of the Negev Institute
for Strategies of Peace and Development, explains
that unemployment and poverty rates among the
Negev Bedouin in unrecognized villages are the highest in Israel.
Residents of unrecognized villages have no
status, she says. They have no address, their
Israeli IDs state only the name of their clan.
They have no claim to land. Their communities
have no water, electricity or roads. There are no
education or health services. The Negev is the
backyard of the State of Israel. We are struggling to get any investment here.
Al-Hajooj says the situation is most difficult
for Bedouin women who face the dual challenges of
living as Bedouin in Israel but also as women in
a patriarchal society, where 30 percent of families are polygamous.
The conditions for women living in unrecognized
villages are dramatically worse than for their
counterparts in Israeli-built Negev towns, she
says. Today 75 percent of the Bedouin students
[largely from recognized Negev towns] in
university are women. But in the unrecognized
villages the situation is very different 65
percent of girls are out of school because there are no schools.
Sued to pay demolition bills
The Israeli governments recent suing of the
Bedouin residents of al-Araqib village in the
Negev for $500,000 to cover the cost of
repeatedly demolishing their homes has sparked
fresh debate over Israels treatment of its Bedouin minority.
Claims by Bedouin residents that al-Araqib is
built on ancestral land have been dismissed by
Israel, which has carried out more than twenty
demolition and eviction operations in the village
since July 2010. Israel considers al-Araqib,
along with 34 other Bedouin villages in the Negev, an illegal village.
Ortal Tzabar, spokesperson for the Israel Lands
Authority, says, This case is not about
demolitions; these people are criminals. This
land has been deserted since 1950, when it was
taken by Israel. We had even leased the land to
other Bedouins for agricultural use and they
chased them away. But their claim that the land
belongs to them is now under investigation and if
it is found they have any rights at all, they will be allowed to return.
In response, a spokesperson for al-Araqib
residents, Awad Abu Freih, says: The court
[process] is going to take some time, the next
hearing is not soon. It has been very exhausting.
The government doesnt like us; they dont want
us but this is our land. They have been using our
land for over sixty years. We dont owe them any
money. They should give us compensation.
Empowerment through weaving
Khadra El Saneh is the director of Sidreh, the
only organization of its kind in Israel working
to educate and promote the rights of Bedouin
women. A mother of four, El Saneh overcame
initial opposition from the traditional elements
in her community to set up a weaving center. The
center now employees seventy local women to make
rugs that sell in boutiques across Israel and are
exported as far afield as New York and Tokyo.
Our aim is to empower women here with basic
things. Bedouin women are at the lowest level of
employment in Israeli society; 90 percent of
Bedouin women living in recognized villages are
illiterate. In unrecognized villages, that number
is more like 100 percent. If a woman has
education and economic empowerment, she can take
more control, make decisions, be more useful to her society and her family.
In an effort to combat low literacy rates, Sidreh
also runs courses teaching Arabic, Hebrew and
English. Since it opened in 1998, 1,400 women
have graduated from its literacy course. It also
offers community services, like early childcare.
Sidrehs weaving business was launched in 2007.
The 70 women employed to spin wool, stitch and
weave the rugs each earn on average 2,000 shekels
($586) a month. The organization is supported by
a number of international and national aid
agencies, including Oxfam, but has received no
support from the State of Israel.
According to El Saneh, the solution to her
communitys education and employment crisis is
simple: If we have schools, girls can go to
school. If we dont have schools, girls cant go.
If a woman doesnt have skills, transport and
basic logistics she cant open a business. If she has, she can.
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