Kayan – advancing the status of women in Israeli-Palestinian society
We are a group of feminist who aim to advance the status of women in the Israeli-Palestinian society. We believe that social change can be achieved if women are empowered to take a more active role in private and public life, encouraged to contribute their experiences and perspectives and to confidently demand recongnition of their needs and realization of their rights.
Empowering Arab Women to Be
The word Kayan comes from the Arabic word for being or existing. Our name reflects the guiding belief of Kayan that social change can be achieved when women are empowered to exert influence and make decisions about their own lives as well as society as a whole. In order for this belief to be valid women must have the knowledge and confidence required to become proactive and self directed. The activities of Kayan lay the foundation for this process of women`s empowerment to take place.
Kayan was founded in 1998 by Arab feminist women with the goal of advancing the status of Arab women in Israel and protecting their rights. Kayan`s singular approach is to focus on grassroots capacity building that has a transformative effect on individual women as well as throughout society.
The founders of Kayan are interested in issues that tackle the tension between nationality and gender, feminist concepts and ethics in feminism as it relates specifically to Arab-Israeli women. As women who belong to an unrepresented minority we often experience double discrimination, as a woman and as an Arab. It is from this place that we engage in grassroots work to bring about social, legal and economic equality for all Arab women in Israel.
In 1990, Arab Feminist women from Haifa and the northern region of Israel were actively working with women`s services, battered women`s shelters and crisis centers for injured and sexually assaulted women. These women helped create programs, meetings, workshops and crisis-services specifically for Arab women. The meetings evolved into a place for Arab women activists to work together and discuss common concerns. Through these meetings the idea emerged to establish an organization by and for Arab women in Israel.
In 1999 Kayan became registered as a non profit and has been responding to the distinct needs of Arab women since that time. Through the creation of unique programs, forums and services delivered in a culturally aware manner there continues to be a surge in Arab women eager to become activists, participate in workshops, receive legal services or simply engage in an exchange of ideas with other women.
In the ten years since it was founded, Kayan achieved significant improvements in the status of Arab women in Israel, most notably:
The Childcare Workers Program (2002-2004) addressed the violation of workers` rights of female childcare workers in Arab villages and towns in Israel, whose salaries were not transferred because of municipal debts. Kayan succeeded to organize 1300 childcare workers, who had not been organized before, in a workers` union, and supported them in their confrontation with local and national authorities. The project was a big success, with an unexpectedly high number of women joining the efforts from the very beginning. At the first national childcare conference in 2003, 450 women attended, among them Bedouin women from the Negev. The union, with the help of a big public and media campaign, eventually succeeded in its demand that salaries were paid directly to the childcare workers and not to the local municipalities.
The “Women Demand Mobility” Program (2004-2008): Kayan facilitated a grassroots campaign that is bringing public transportation to Israel`s Arab towns and villages in 2009. The project started as a local initiative in the village of Maghar, out of Kayan`s empowerment course. Participants of the course were exhausted trying to find ways to get to a weekly Kayan meeting, as no form of public transport existed in this large village spread out or most other Arab towns and villages in Israel. They decided to change their situation, and the situation of women in most Arab localities who are isolated in their homes, unable to move beyond a certain radius outside their homes without male accompaniment. In 2006, the first report on “Mobility among Arab women in Israel” was published, which served as a major advocacy and media tool. The program achieved its aim of installation of public transportation in 2008, when Kayan worked with the Ministry of Transport in a joint work-plan for the installation of public transportation in two major clusters of Arab villages.
The Arabic Leaflet on the Law against Domestic Violence: In 2007, Kayan has published excerpts of the “Prevention of Domestic Violence Act” of 1991 in Arabic. The act is designed to offer fast and not bureaucratic help to women in emergencies. 2000 leaflets were distributed to Arab women in social welfare offices, universities, schools, and other public places. This was the first publication of an Arabic version of the legislation at all. Most legal information in Israel is distributed to the public in English only, despite the fact that Arabic is an official language of the State and despite the fact that many Arab citizens and especially Arab women can not understand this language and are thus deprived of their right to know the legislation which they are subject to. The need to inform Arab women about their legal rights against domestic violence, and the lack of any Arabic information about it, brought up the idea at Kayan to create this publication. Kayan was surprised by the big public storm raised by this project, with unprecedented media attention. It was debated in most major Arabic and Hebrew newspapers in Israel, as well as on the public television and radio broadcast. It thus reached a very high number of women, among them the direct beneficiaries, women who face domestic violence.
The focus of Kayan`s work is to engage in grassroots capacity building by bringing together Arab women in order to raise awareness, increase knowledge, and foster personal development so that women become proactive and self directed in their personal lives and in society.
Kayan organizes workshops, lectures and community meetings about women`s rights and issues so that participants are prepared to advocate for themselves and create social change in the community. Out of these workshops many women have intensified their community activism and remain involved in self governed local initiatives ranging from installing Public Transport in rural villages to creating a community women`s center.
Kayan`s staff trains, mentors and advises local leaders in the community in addition to raising funds and support for various women`s initiatives.
Kayan gives legal aid, assistance, and advice to low income Arab women. As members of an unrepresented minority, Palestinian-Israeli women often have their legal rights disregarded on two fronts, both from within the community and within the national arena. Kayan focuses on informing women of their legal rights, raising awareness about legal recourse and ensuring women have access to legal aid.
Kayan has developed relationships with policymakers in the government in order to be effective in bringing about policy change primarily in Arab villages and communities. Through an ongoing dialogue among women in the community about the areas most in need of improvement, and collaboration with policy makers on how to address these issues, Kayan continues to progress. Some recent policy changes include:
* The creation of a National Childcare Workers Union
* The establishment of an Arabic language option in the police departments emergency phone line
* Installation of Public Transport in Arab towns and villages
Kayan engages in ongoing public discourse, comprehensive data collection, publishing of reports and dialogue in order to advocate for ourselves and other Arab women by bringing key issues to the public arena.