An outstanding gathering organized by WAC-Maan and Sindyanna of the Galilee marked International Women’s Day at the Baqa Al-Gharbiyye community center on March 7, 2015. The women attending were excited and proud, and with good reason. They are activist working women from women’s organizations in the Galilee, the Triangle and the West Bank, who have taken charge of their own fate and, through their own creative output, changed their lives and the lives of the people around them. Many supporters of WAC-Maan and of Sindyanna were also present. The evening was organized by the dedicated members of the Women’s Forum of WAC-Maan, and everyone who performed volunteered their time and talents.
The evening was moderated by Wafa Tiara, who directs the WAC-Maan project on Women in Agriculture. She explained the project’s goals and mode of operation, with special mention for the agricultural working women attending on this occasion. Tiara also made special mention of the women of Syria who have suffered for the last four years under the bloody Assad regime, and she thanked the Women’s Forum members who have donated for the children of Syria through the Committee for Humanitarian Aid for the people of Syria.
Popular singer Maria Abu Wasel, incorporating into her performance special lyrics honoring the participants and their Arab-Jewish partnership, inspired those in attendance to sing along with her, clapping and drumming throughout the event.
The first speaker was Najat Abu Saa’, among the founders of the Rural Women’s Development Association of Saida, in the Tulkarm area. About 70 women are active in the Saida association, cultivating a four-dunam plot of land, raising herbs and organic vegetables and selling the oils and the soap they produce there together. They have also trained in beekeeping and are selling honey produced in the apiary they now maintain.
Abir Mawasi, a member of the WAC-Maan Women’s Forum, described how she decided to begin working outside her home, and how doing so had changed her life and the lives of everyone in her family, both financially and socially. Broadening her circles of acquaintance and meeting Jews, she said, she came to realize that Jews, too, are human beings like her and need not be feared; she became an independent women who contributes to her household and is a partner in family decision-making. She urged those present not to be timid, to go ahead and get jobs and contribute to their own growth and the welfare of their society.
Hindia Suleiman from the Galilee village of Bueina Nujidat described how a group of women there had decided to take the initiative and set up an association called the Pearl of the Valley, whose members engage in traditional crafts like basket weaving, beadwork and embroidery and sell the products in the visitors’ center they established for the purpose. Their once-sleepy village on the periphery of the Galilee tourist routes now attracts hundreds of visitors a year, proving that even without higher education or professional training, older women can change their lives and alter the destiny of an entire community. Also addressing the gathering were Hanan Manadra Zoabi and Muna Nahle of Sindyanna of the Galilee, and group facilitator Hannah Tawfiq, who runs empowerment sessions for the WAC-Maan Women’s Forum.
The younger generation had an important role in the event. Young poet Areej Abu Mokh read her piece calling on women to rise up against limitations on their status and rebel; the reading was accompanied by Amir Arou, an Abtiasma (“Smile”) Association member, on the oud. Rising young actor Sham Abu Mokh, with her monologue on the fate of a young divorced woman ostracized by her society, touched a deeply responsive chord in her audience.
Just before a final vocal performance by Maria Abu Wasel, certificates of appreciation were presented to the participating performers and to representatives of the organizations that participated in organizing the event.