"In Unity We Shall Replace Economic Terror with Fair Employment "

Hundreds of women march in Tel Aviv, Marking Women International Day 2010

By Michal Schwartz

A colorful march took place in Tel-Aviv on March 8, International Women’s Day. Hundreds of Jewish and Arab working women arrived from all over the country, calling for fair employment. For the first time, 15 women and workers organizations join hands to found a coalition for fair employment and fight against government policy which produces poverty and unemployment among women. After the march, an assembly took place in the public park Gan Me’ir, moderated by Asma Agbarieh Zahalka from WAC-MAAN, and Ester Eilam, Chairwoman of “Ahoti – for women in Israel”.

Agbarieh called the government to change its priorities and “to put the working people and women first. We will continue the struggle to destroy the class walls that condemn peoples to poverty and wars, and further enrich the already rich classes of the world. In their quest for money, they ignore religion, nationality and race. And so, it is time that we take our future back in to our hands, and organize in order to collapse the walls of money”.

Eilam said that economy and politics are inseparable. “A general public policy regarding women’s employment must be found, supplying solutions for women, such as elderly and handicapped women, who are banished out of the world of work. Women must become visible in the public world”.

Michal Schwartz, the coordinator of WAC-MAAN’s women forum, talked about the situation of Arab, Ethiopian and Mizrahi Women, who are being pushed to the side and remain hidden from the eye. When we ignore their exploitation we then allow attacks on working women as a whole. She called women to organize and unionize in trade unions with other workers, and be a part of the leadership of a new workers movement that will put an end to exploitation.

Shula Keshet, the CEO of Ahoti, spoke against globalization, which creates poverty and increases social gaps in Israel. Shira Ohayon, the director of the Israeli Andalusian Orchestra and a pioneer of Mizrahi education in Israel, spoke about the successful struggle of the orchestra against budget cuts, and called to stop the “economic terror” being practiced against women. Aliza Yadai, one of the leaders of the union of the Day Care workers and a member of “Koah La’ovdim” (Power to the Workers), spoke about the poor working conditions of thousands of carers whose social rights are being ignored by the Ministry of Labour.

Mona Alhabanein, the chairwoman of the NGO “Nesihat Hamidbar” (Princess of the Desert), spoke about the difficult situation of the of the Beduin Woman. “We are in the most difficult situation of all Israeli women. In addition to being discriminated as a woman, Beduin women suffer from the policy of land expropriation and house demolitions. She called the women to participate in a demonstration against house demolishing, that will take place next week”.

Wafa Tiara, farm worker in the past and currently an activist in WAC-MAAN, spoke on behalf of the Arab farm workers. The Arab farm workers are not able to find work because of the policy of importing cheap and rightless Thai workers. Those who do manage to work are being used shamefully by the contractors, and that pushes the arab population below the poverty line. She called all of the victims of offensive employment, Jewish and Arab women, to join hands against exploitative employers.

Ester Herzog, the coordinator of “women’s parliament” and the head of the Anthropology program in Beit Berl College, spoke about the working conditions of teachers in Israel, 85% of whom are women. The government cuts education budgets, and demands the teachers to work extra hours for free, as part of the”Ofek Hadash” Program. She called on women to find their political voice.”As long as we women will not fight for our political representation, we will not achieve social change”.

Shebi Korzan, the CEO of the Hotline for Migrant Workers, talked about the feminization of migration. Women from the third world are being forced to leave their young children and elderly parents behind, and travel to take care of other women’s children and parents. She talked about the paradox in which they find themselves: in trying to help their families they end up losing them. Pregnancy is considered a violation of their working contract, and they are being required to leave immediately if they are found to be pregnant. Korzan called for solidarity among women regardless of race or civil status.

Rabbi Idit Lev, manager of the social justice department in “Shomrei Mishpat – Rabbis for Human Rights” and the manager of a project against the Wisconsin in Hadera area, also spoke. The musical ensemble “Hadar and Yo’el – Shevet Ahim”, excited the crowd singing in Hebrew, Arabic and Bukhari.

This was the first event of the coalition for fair employment. We hope more actions will follow.

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