Yardena Michael grew up in Haifa, the third of 10 children of immigrants from Iraq. When she left her husband after 16 years of marriage, Yardena had to raise her four children alone, with no child support. She had no work experience and only a high school education. After joining a Shatil-run support group for single parents, Yardena was inspired to work for social change. In November 2006, Yardena testified at the Shatil-coordinated public hearing held in Haifa, talking about the difficulties she and her family experienced during the Second Lebanon War. Her children suffered from acute anxiety. Her daughter contracted an infection from the poor sanitary conditions in the shelter and had to be hospitalized in order to receive intravenous antibiotics. Yardena said that the only aid she got during the period was from non-profit organizations. She is currently heading a project to inform women of their rights after divorce, as part of an initiative sponsored by Itach Ma’aki: Lawyers for Women’s Rights. “I want to help other women so that they can have an easier time than I did in dealing with legal hurdles when starting a new life for themselves,” Yardena says. “Shatil gave me the strength to believe that I can make a difference.”
During her most recent maternity leave, Safa Younes, an MSW with a specialization in women’s studies, decided to leave her job as a probation officer to found a women’s center in her hometown of Jaffa. “As a woman and a resident of Jaffa, I felt we lacked a place where women could get together to learn about our rights and about how to advance our community,” she says. Safa researched the work of other women’s organizations and then turned to Shatil. “Shatil encouraged me to believe in my vision and helped me understand the context in which I was working, as well as how to strategize and to develop clear goals and programs,” she says. “I attribute much of our progress to Shatil.” Today, hundreds of women visit the Bride of the Sea Women’s Center, whether for weekly lectures and discussions about issues such as civil rights and violence against women; monthly trips; economic-empowerment initiatives; or courses in computers, English and literacy. The center’s programs are all offered in collaboration with other organizations or government offices. Twelve women who are being trained in community empowerment launched a project to discourage early marriage, and a collective is working on making and marketing handmade dolls. Women involved in these projects strategize together about the future of the center – an idea Safa developed with Shatil. Says Safa: “For every dilemma I have, I can find help at Shatil.”
When Riki Tegave was a child in the Ethiopian village of Ambover, she and her playmates would run after every plane that passed, shouting, “Take us to Jerusalem!” This dream came true when she arrived in Israel at the age of nine. Riki earned a B.A. in education and an M.A. in counseling from the University of Haifa. After seven years of volunteering in the Ethiopian community, she co-founded Hiyot (Life), an organization of university-educated women who work to advance the Ethiopian community in Haifa. During the Second Lebanon War, Riki joined other activists of Ethiopian origin in a Shatil-led tour of shelters in the North, for the purpose of assessing the needs of Ethiopian immigrants and offering them words of encouragement. Hiyot distributed food to needy immigrants and, with Shatil’s help, organized a five-day outing to Jerusalem to provide the Ethiopian families with a short respite from the war. In Shatil’s first post-war public hearing in Haifa, Riki testified about the serious neglect of the Ethiopian community during the war: no information was provided in Amharic, the shelters were far away, and neither food nor medicine was distributed. She reported that traumatized children had still not received appropriate psychological support. Riki says, “I don’t know where we would be today if it hadn’t been for Shatil. Shatil enables the different to find strength in their difference. It gives you the confidence to be different and still be able to lead.”
Like many Russian immigrants, educational psychologist Liza Nikolaichuk worked as a caregiver upon herimmigration to Israel in 1994. After she took in a young attempted-rape victim, a neighbor spoke to her about Maslan, the Women’s Support Center for Battered and Sexually Abused Women in the Negev. Seeing that Maslan had no Russian-speaking staff or volunteers and thus no Russian-speaking clients, Liza decided to volunteer there. After several years, she was asked to join the board and that’s when she began to work with Shatil. “I thought we needed to reorganize and I turned to Shatil,” she says. “Shatil staff interpreted for me, explained things to me – including the different mentality here. When the board wanted to hire me as director, I said, ‘But I’m a psychologist not a manager!’ They told me, ‘You have Shatil.’ Through Shatil, I learned how to articulate a vision, define roles, build a work plan, manage budgets, reorganize and professionalize the organization. I send my coordinators to every course Shatil offers. Without fail, when I have a question I get a response from Shatil. There is no other body that is able to respond so professionally to such a wide variety of issues and with such a deep, multi-cultural understanding and a special personal connection. Shatil continues to be by my side every step of the way.”
Yosepha grew up with five siblings on her grandfather’s moshav in the North of Israel. Her father immigrated to Israel from Yemen and her mother immigrated from Tunisia at age one. On days when Yosepha did not have to go to school, she woke up at 5 a.m. to milk the cows. At 18, she joined the army, where she worked with soldiers who had dropped out of school, most of whom were Mizrachim. Yosepha was struck by the huge divide between Ashkenazim and Mizrachim – one she had not noticed as a child, even though she grew up on a Yemenite moshav surrounded by Ashkenazi kibbutzim. Yosepha received a BA in education and literature and an MA in the sociology of education, both from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. During her student years, Yosepha volunteered with Achoti (My Sister),a Mizrachi feminist organization. Yosepha developed Women Cook up a Business, a project that trains unemployed women to use the kills they already possess to open a small business. Achoti gives women a way to escape from poverty. Wanting to make a greater impact, Yosepha joined up with Shatil, where she has been instrumental in training organizations to cultivate a “bottom-up economy.” Under Yosepha’s leadership, Shatil’s Forum for the Promotion of Micro-business Initiatives convinced the Israeli government to ease certain regulations, thus enabling indigent women to retain their welfare rights when they go into business. A winner of NIF’s Yaffa London Ya’ari Award for Israeli women activists, Yosepha, 29, recently gave birth to her first baby, whom she hopes will grow up in a safer, more tolerant, community-oriented Israel.