Israel: Promoting working rights for Arab women

Picking cucumbers p1

The overarching aim of this project is to reduce poverty amongst Arabs in Israel. Continued marginalisation of the Arab population is limiting prospects for peace in the region and forcing many Arab families into poverty, with some 54% living below the poverty line.

This poverty has been exacerbated by the mass import of cheap foreign labour into Israel, which adds competition for jobs. There are extremely limited employment opportunities for Arab women in particular, as traditions within the Arab community do not encourage female labour.

The project

Working with CAFOD and their local partner, WAC Ma’an (WAC), we are helping to provide a unique support system for Arab women in Israel, facilitating their access to employment, at least the minimum wage, and a forum to demand their rights. 

The specific approach involves supported Arab women of Israel to seek work in the agricultural sector. WAC do this by visiting Israeli farms directly, meeting with the owners and offering them help in finding workers. At the same time, WAC's offices collect the names of women seeking jobs. When an employer receives an organised work team through WAC, they help the new workers to adjust to their roles and solve conflicts that arise between workers and employers, and also offer legal advice.

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Wafa Tiara of WAC Ma'an

The aim of this project is to promote long-term change: with more women in work, able to support their families, more children can complete their education.

A crucial part of this project is to break down the stigma of Arab women working. All women in WAC-organised work placements are offered weekly courses in personal empowerment, discussing important questions on family dynamics, independence, femininity, decision-making and how to deal with anger. The workshops are intended to enable the women to have more confidence in their skills and potential, and to challenge discriminatory treatment from employers or relatives.

A large part of WAC’s work is devoted to lobbying decision makers and conducting a public campaign, encouraging the Israeli government to reduce the number of permits it allows for importing foreign labour and advocating for the rights of women.

We have been supporting WAC’s work since 2012. During this time, WAC has been able to secure over 1,330 seasonal and permanent jobs for Arab women.