Economic Empowerment

NISPED-AJEEC is committed to helping Arab-Bedouin women and men provide financial support for their families, while realizing their potentials. We undertake a number of courses – focusing usually on women, but also offering a number of opportunities for men – that integrate professional training with personal and community empowerment. These courses provide the basis for the participants to develop their skills, bring needed services to their communities and support themselves and their families with dignity and independence.

Below follow descriptions of a number of our recent endeavors.

Arab-Bedouin Fashion Design

Twenty Arab-Bedouin women from the towns of Rahat, Lakiya, Tel Sheva, Segev Shalom, Kseifa and Rachma participated in a sewing course for fashion design, that was initiated and run by NISPED-AJEEC. The need for such a course became clear after many women from the area were forced to travel to the north in order to purchase their traditional clothes, since they were unavailable in the Negev.

women sewing course 2

The 12 meeting course took place at the Amal College in Beer Sheva and included lessons on sewing and cutting, personal empowerment and business initiatives. At the end of the course, the women had a two-day tour to the north where they underwent training in business initiatives and visited businesses that had been established by women from Peikin and Sachnin. The women are now receiving ongoing mentoring as they work toward establishing a network of sewing workshops in Arab-Bedouin villages in the Negev.

Arab-Bedouin sheep breeders from the Negev establish first cooperative

NISPED-AJEEC, in conjunction with The Agricultural Research Institute in Beit Dagan, and the professional mentoring of veterinarian, Dr. Maazen abu Siam, is carrying out a unique undertaking for Arab-Bedouin sheep breeders from the Negev. This project involves breeding better sheep and the establishment of a cooperative of Arab-Bedouin sheep breeders in the Negev.

Specific aims of the project are to help the sheep breeders produce a new breed species that will increase their flocks’ birth rates and that, additionally, does not necessitate feeding the sheep in pasture. In October, the first lambs were born that carry the new species and they are currently receiving care and medical attention.

In the fall of this year, project participants met with the Israeli Central Union of Cooperative Societies in order to examine the possibility of joint work and participation. As a result of this meeting and the work of the participants, 15 sheep breeders came together last week to establish their cooperative. This is the first cooperative to be established by Arab-Bedouins in the country.

The cooperative will be managed by a board of directors and a governing council and is submitting an application to the Justice Ministry to be registered as an agricultural association. The cooperative will then serve as the representative of the breeders in the Ministry of Agriculture in discussions of water use and pastures.

In the beginning, the cooperative will purchase feed for the members’ flocks. The cooperative will then work on establishing a feed factory and an institute for feed mixture.

The members of the cooperative have recently participated in a number of study trips in order to gain further knowledge into methods for intensive breeding. NISPED-AJEEC will continue to work with these Arab-Bedouin sheep breeders as they develop their cooperative and deepen their knowledge on sheep breeding and production.

Another 1st for AJEEC and Negev Arab Businessmen: The Establishment of a Negev Arab Businessmen’s Forum

On the 30th of October 2007, the Economic Empowerment division of NISPED-AJEEC convened 25 Arab businessmen from throughout the Negev who decided to establish the first Negev Arab Businessmen’s Forum. Mr. Avner Vered, the director of the Small Business Fund, a financial institution supported by the government, gave a lecture and the men talked over vital issues that will be handled in the forum. The following decisions were taken concerning the monthly meetings:

An application will be made to governmental institutions concerning the request for appropriate representation of Negev Arab businessmen.
A one day conference will be planned on financial support for businesses in which representatives from Israeli banks, Tavor fund, government guarantee fund, investment center and the Koret fund will participate.
An in-depth examination  will be undertaken into the possibility of turning the forum into a legal representative body of Arab businessmen from the Negev.
The members will create a detailed plan that will lead to the involvement of businessmen in projects within the Arab Negev society.
A design of a system of action for cooperation between Arab and Jewish businessmen in the Negev will be made.

Enhancement of Employment Opportunities

Under the auspices of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor and JDC-Israel, we conducted a comprehensive survey of the employment situation and needs of the Arab Bedouin population of the Negev. Based on the findings, a master-plan was designed for the development of employment opportunities for this population, within the framework of TEVET, the National Employment Initiative. Twelve projects were planned, ranging from the training of single-parent Arab Bedouin women as caterers, to the training of traditional sheep herders in the raising of sheep for dairy production.

Four recent programs include:

1. The Single Mother’s Catering Project

2. Training Program in Jewelry Design and Production

3. Training Program in Fashion Design and Production

4. Training Program for Physical Education and Sports Counselors (for men)

AJEEC recrutis the trainees, and runs the programs which are unique in that they integrate training with personal empowerment, vocational training and entrepreneurship, guidance in preparation of business plans and access to loans, and provision of ongoing professional support.

Economic Empowerment of Women

For the large majority of Arab Bedouin women, transition from the traditional to the modern world has been disruptive and traumatic. This transition resulted in the loss of women’s traditional roles as producers and partners in the economy, dispossessed them from their land, which had been their source of employment and income and transformed them into consumers, totally dependent on their husbands. Concomitantly, their status in the community declined, their role now limited to child-bearing and care of the family.

AJEEC works together with NISPED’s divisions of INCEP-SME and ICECOS to develop economic empowerment programs for Arab Bedouin women. These programs are designed to enable the women to contribute to the economic support and welfare of their families, while empowering themselves in a way that respects their society’s customs and tradition. Since many women are constrained by tradition from working outside the confines of the extended family or tribe, our training courses and business plans are designed to meet the specific needs of Arab-Bedouin women within their own communities. Our courses are unique in that they integrate theoretical and practical studies, training in entrepreneurship and basic business practices with vocational training, provide the women with “hands on” experiences in the field, and supply continuing professional guidance and support.
Current Training Programs

Projects for Women

The Single Mothers’ Catering Project

Eleven single mothers (widows, divorcees and women whose husbands have taken second and third wives and left them and their children without support) from the townships of Hura were trained as caterers during 2005-6, in preparation for the establishment of catering enterprises in their towns. These enterprises will provide hot meals for school children as part of the national “hot meal” plan in the primary school system. This project was made possible by the support of the UJA Federation of New York, The Royal Embassy of the Netherlands and the Levi Lassen Stichting.

The Hura catering enterprise, which will provide approximately 3,500 daily meals contracted for by the Hura municipality, was renovated and equipped to meet the standards of the Ministry of Health. In addition to the lunch meals for school children, the women will also open up a restaurant that will serve the people working in the industrial area, where the catering enterprise is located. During its first three years of operation, this business will be run by a ‘public benefit company’, after which it will become a cooperative, owned by the women themselves.

Training Course in Jewelry Design and Production

20 women completed their vocational training in the design and production of costume jewelry, based on traditional Bedouin motifs and designs. The Lakiya Desert Embroidery Enterprise, our partners in this project, will assist in marketing the jewelry, as a complement to their own traditional hand embroidered products. The women are currently receiving entrepreneurial and business training and guidance as they prepare their business plans.

Training Program in Fashion Design and Production

This program, in its final planning stages, will train 25 women in the design and production of women’s wear, combining elements of traditional culture with modern fashion design. At present there are some 20 bridal salons and 15 fashion boutiques for women in the Arab Bedouin townships, all of which sell merchandise designed and produced either in the north and central regions of Israel country or imported from Jordan. The program aims to provide local women with the opportunity to open their own income-generating enterprises, meeting local needs. The integrated training program will include 500 hours of vocational training over an 18-month period.

Projects for Men

Training Physical Education and Sports Counselors

Within the Arab-Bedouin community, there are few physical education teachers and sports counselors. To meet this need, 25 yound men are being trained over a 10-month period as physical education and sports counselors for schools and community centers. This course is being conducted in conjunction with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor.

Improved Sheep Breeding

16 sheep breeders are participating in a 350-hour course in the theory and practice of sheep breeding and related topics. The course aims to not only help empower the sheep breeders, but to offer techniques that will help them improve the quality and quantity of the milk from their sheep.

Previous Programs
Video and Stills Photography Course:

26 Arab Bedouin women completed a training course organized together with MATI, the Small Business Development Center in Beer-Sheva, and went on to establish photography enterprises. The women specialize in photographing female participants at weddings and other community and family events – something that men are prohibited from doing in this traditional society.
Training Course for Women D.J.s

To meet a similar need – for entertainment in the women’s tents at Arab Bedouin weddings – AJEEC trained Arab Bedouin women as D.J.s – a ‘first time ever’ initiative. These women subsequently opened their own businesses.

Hairdressers’ Course

Whereas Bedouin women traditionally cover their heads, they may reveal their hair when at home or in the company of women. There is a constant demand for the services of hairdressers – especially in preparation for weddings and other family celebrations. 22 women from Arab Bedouin communities were trained as hairdressers by AJEEC and went on to establish their own businesses, individually or in partnership with each other.

A survey of 55 graduates of NISPED-AJEEC’s economic empowerment programs for Arab Bedouin women came up with the following findings: 38 have opened their own businesses and 12 are employed by others.

Arab Bedouin Business Women’s Forum
The Forum was established as a framework providing continued learning opportunities and peer support for Arab Bedouin business women, graduates of AJEEC’s integrqated vocational and business training courses.