Karima Yahya, 53, is a mother of six and a grandmother. She has been involved in the project “Women and Agriculture” of WAC-MAAN since its inception in 2005. Today Karima works for the NGO “Leket Israel,” the largest food bank in Israel. In the following interview, she tells us how the project changed her life:
“I had to go to work because I had no choice. After my husband went through heart surgery in 2006, we were left without an income. We were in debt and our families could not help. I met Wafa Tiara, WAC’s chief coordinator of the project “Women and Agriculture” of WAC-MAAN, and she encouraged me to get a job. Since then, I have been working and am the main breadwinner in the house. I was employed to pick flowers in the summer from early morning without sun protection netting and it wore me out. Every day I felt that I could not go on, I was fed up. Without Wafa’s support – she herself worked in picking flowers – I would have given up. In time, I became accustomed to the work.
“I will never forget the first time I opened a bank account in my life. My first salary went to cover household expenses and repay debts, but it was not enough and life was very difficult. I cannot imagine how I would have gotten through it all without WAC-MAAN. At the beginning, I worked just for the paycheck, but gradually I saw that working changed me. I met new people and my status at home improved. Initially I watched the evening news just for the weather broadcast, but very quickly I became interested in current affairs. I began attending empowerment classes organized by WAC-MAAN for agricultural workers. It was thought-provoking and strengthened me.
“It’s not that my life is ideal. I wish I could be more learned, but that’s not possible. Nonetheless, it hasn’t stopped me from moving forward. Recently I began to work part-time in a travel agency. I learned how to use a computer and book holiday packages. This led to additional skills and more income. Today I encourage other women to work because having a job has changed my life in every respect. When I hear people say they pity a woman who has to work, I say ‘take pity on those who do not work.’
“Going to work and taking part in empowerment classes has a positive effect on women who have been stuck for decades in their villages. It helps them to break free even in the simplest terms. I encourage my daughters to work and to go further than I have. I always tell them that work is women’s ‘winning weapon.’ I am aware that educated women have more interesting jobs and get higher salaries, but a working woman who is not formally educated is not necessarily weak. Work gives her strength! Along with this, women with high education are my role models. I have realized some of my dreams and I hope to continue to learn and advance as long as I live.”
Interviewed: Wafa Tiara, Project Coordinator of Women and Agriculture WAC-MAAN