International Women’s Day 2019: Women Leading the Way to Green Economy

International Women’s Day 2019. WAC-MAAN and Sindyanna of Galilee have decided to dedicate International Women’s Day of 2019 to green economy and sustainability. The event, which took place on March […]

International Women’s Day 2019.

WAC-MAAN and Sindyanna of Galilee have decided to dedicate International Women’s Day of 2019 to green economy and sustainability. The event, which took place on March 9 at the Arab-Hebrew Theater in Jaffa, was dedicated to the need to shift towards solar energy and hydroponic farming. Some of the dozens of women who participated in the event from the Triangle region have begun a hydroponic course in January, and they are undergoing a transformation. In dedicating themselves to this endeavor, they are joining a major global trend, in which women’s movements lead the way to societal and technological change. Thus, they can save human society from pollution and violence and transform it into a world of transnational cooperation.

Wafa Tiara

The event was moderated by Wafa Tayara, the director of WAC’s Women and Work Project in the Triangle region. She also addressed the revival of the Arab Spring in Algeria, Egypt, Sudan and other parts of the Arab World: “Women are full partners in the struggle, fighting against dictatorships, corruption, and the oppression of women. They are young revolutionary women seeking to break from the chains of repression that are plaguing the Arab World. They want to defeat regimes that stand in the way of democracy and development, and to build the future.”

Ashraf Yihya

A key speaker was Ashraf Yihya from Kafr Kara. Founder and the CEO of Siraj (Renewable Solar Energy), Yihya specialized in the field in Germany 25 years ago. He told the audience how his company has helped unrecognized villages in the Negev, who had no electricity, to start producing their own solar energy: “I am proud to tell you that more than 250,000 people in Israel and around the world are getting their power from solar panels installed by Siraj. Most of them have already recovered their initial investment and have been enjoying free electricity for years.” The mostly-female audience was enraptured.

Siherab Masarwa

The star of the event was undoubtedly the third speaker, Siherab Masarwa from Baka al-Gharbia. Masarwa directs the hydroponic farming pilot of WAC and Sindyanna. She is doing her master’s degree at the Environment Studies at Tel Aviv University and lectures on space at Al-Kassami Academy in Baqa al-Gharbia: “I must confess that as an Arab woman wearing a headdress, the odds are already against me,” she said jokingly, capturing instantly the heart of the audience. “I am a woman before anything else, and I regard every woman who is attending this evening as a revolution in her own right,” she continued. “I have asked myself, ‘What am I studying for, if I can’t make a difference in my own society?’ I wanted to educate preschoolers to understand how the food they eat grows, I wanted them to learn that “sitting on the ground” is not something dirty.”

Masarwa went on to say: “Every one of us knows that in order to do something new in her village, she must break a wall. And I have decided to conduct my first pilot in the kindergarten that my mother runs.” She noted that the project does not require higher education or large expenditures, and that any woman is capable of success. The children loved the project and turned it into a resounding success. “Now I train women from WAC-MAAN and I am very proud of their progress and commitment to the issue. We are all part of the same revolution!”

Huda Bayadse, a trainee in the hydroponic pilot, delighted the audience with her singing of a few folk songs to celebrate Women’s Day, accompanied by Ibtisam Bayadse on a drum.

Social worker and art therapist Dunya Masalha is the moderator of a WAC women’s group in Kafr Kara, addressing the violence that is prevalent in Arab society. “We need to attain a position in which we can speak to men on equal terms. The way to achieve this is through negotiation. We still have a very long way to go before we achieve our self-determination.”

Dunia Masalha

“Violence is associated with the economic power of men. When a woman goes out to work, the man can no longer control her and decide how much money she can use. When both spouses work, they realize that they can achieve much more together and advance their family.”

Attorney Yael Frenkel is co-founder of Lissan Association, established by female students at the Hebrew University in order to teach Palestinian women Hebrew. In 2017, Lissan began to teach WAC women from East Jerusalem. Earlier this year, Frenkel joined the WAC team, currently representing Palestinians jobless and workers and a full partner in the women’s project.

Yael Frenkel

“Here there is no need for me to explain why women from East Jerusalem want to learn Hebrew. Through my students I have come to understand what it means to always feel unsafe in the public space, which is totally dominated by the Hebrew language, and what it means to work in a place where knowledge of Hebrew is a prerequisite. We began with 20 women, and today we have 600 women learning Hebrew, 60 of who are from WAC-MAAN.”

“The language barrier erects invisible walls of ignorance and fear. The men, who work in the Israeli workforce, know Hebrew. But women, who have been quite absent, did not need the language. Now all this is changing. But the beauty of it is that Lissan instructors have come to teach Hebrew, and then felt a need to learn Arabic. When we learn the language of the other side, we have the power to struggle together against the occupation and join forces in order to make bring change.”

Ayana Erdal, a poet and literature teacher at the Hand in Hand bi-lingual school in Jerusalem (there are six such schools in Israel), teaches Jewish and Palestinian pupils from many Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and comes in contact with male and female Palestinian teachers. Erdal played a very active role in the unionization of Hand in Hand staff in WAC-MAAN which achieved a collective agreement with the bi-lingual schools network. She read two poems. Here is a translation of one of them, which was written for the event:

Ayana Erdal

When I Was Little Girl, I Kept Silent, March 9rd, 2019

When I was a little girl, I’d keep silent

At first I tried to stand my ground, to argue, but my brother always defeated me

He knew history, sports, politics and cinema. He remembered dates and places.

He spoke with loud confidence that made me fall silent.

Years went on before my mother told me: “Don’t you know you’re wiser than him?”

No. I did not know that. But when she said it,

It was the most beautiful gift ever given to me.

The desk she bought me at 16 and the clothes she bought me

At the Ramla-Lod  market – none of these were as beautiful as this:

The knowledge that my mother appreciates me and thinks I’m wise.

Today I think about the many wise things that I have learned from my mother,

Things that are rarely assigned any importance,

Because they are learned incidentally, like the kiss on the cheek and the tender caress,

Given simply, just like a mother’s love:

How to be a good and thrifty cook,

How to use leftovers from one thing to create another.

And quite unconsciously, I follow her:

From the oranges I squeeze to make juice for the kids I make candied orange peel;

From the tomatoes too mushy for salad I make pasta sauce;

The egg whites left from baking I put in the omelet;

The leftover rice in the pot I add to the meatball mince.

You probably do these things too, without thinking much of it,

For a long time, such thoughts have been defined as non-thoughts.

But these are the thoughts that create life.

How to grow plants on the balcony,

How to pick the right time for hanging the washing out to dry,

And whilst the wind, the sun and the water take care of plants and clothes,

I hurry back to my pot of orange peels.

Their delightful aroma fills the house,

The children are coming.

* Translated by Orit Friedland

אודות Michal Schwarz