Published on CAFOD’s website on 8.12.14
Wafa Tiara works for CAFOD partner in Tel Aviv, Workers Advice Centre Ma’an, which supports unorganised workers regardless of ethnicity or religion. Wafa runs a project helping Arab Israeli women to find jobs in agriculture. Here she discusses her work and its impact.
I am a mum of four boys. I started to work in the farming sector in Israel with a sub-contractor and I was paid a very small amount of money. I was mad that I was being exploited. I heard about Ma’an and how it helps women and joined one of the first groups in 2006.
I’m very close to the women. I know what they are going through and some of these things are natural for me – I relate to them. I want to change the situation of the women.
Seeing change first hand
There are so many cases that I have been impressed by. I can tell you about a woman who worked in the farming sector, but she kept this secret from her husband. The reasons were that she was shy, but also the farming sector isn’t respected.
She finds it dignified to work as a farm worker – which she sees as a proper job. She is like a different woman now.
She comes to every meeting without fail. She comes to each one and says, “I come here to recharge my batteries.” I can remember one meeting she stood up on stage and spoke. She was so confident and strong.
Before, the same woman didn’t have enough money to fix her teeth. She spoke without showing her teeth.
After she started work, she could afford to get her teeth fixed. Now she smiles. This is a small, but symbolic and important thing.
There are many stories like this.
‘You will change’
My feeling is every woman that starts to work, starts to change. There is only a very small number that stay as they are. Even those who only go into work once start to change. They might not even know it.
When I talk with women in the beginning on starting to enter the jobs market, the discussion is not just on the technical aspects of how to do the job, but about the change that will come in the woman’s life. It will affect her.
I say, ‘Don’t worry! You should go with it. Follow it, go with it. You will change.’
After several months they share these experiences. They speak with their friends and they tell them ‘Don’t be afraid’.
They then say to their friends, ‘It’s not easy, it will be hard, but persevere!’