EMPOWERING ARAB BUSINESSWOMEN
Women's Horizons (Ofek Nashi) is a business mentorship and training program for Arab businesswomen in Israel. Made to combat patriarchy, poverty, and unemployment in Arab communities, Ofek Nashi provides business and leadership training to help Arab businesswomen strengthen both their business practice, and their position within their community.
Ofek Nashi participants gain the skills and knowledge they need to ensure the successful short- and long-term growth of their businesses. The four major components of the project are: (1) a business administration course; (2) individual mentoring and coaching; (3) group empowerment skills workshops; (4) leadership and conflict resolution skills training.
Ofek Nashi participants graduate from the program with the ability to contribute to the economic and social prosperity of Arab society, and Israeli society in general.
"I regard the participants of the Ofek Nashi project as a support group" – Fidaa Jabara, boutique owner, Taibe
“One of the many things that I gained from the Ofek program was the ability to network within the group, enabling us to make joint orders and lower delivery costs” – Nadia Hazkiya, boutique owner, Tira
An evaluation report on the pilot cycle found that all participating businesses began to operate on the basis of a business plan that was developed during the course of the program. As a result, a third of the businesses owned by project participants increased their turnover by 35%-50%, and another third by 50%-100%. No significant change occurred in the income of the last third of the participants. The model of individual mentorship was particularly effective in removing blocks and achieving breakthroughs, as well as in providing the women with tools to respond to emergency crises.
After a series of meetings with the AJEEC, an organization that works with Bedouin women in the Negev, we adapted the Ofek Nashi model to meet local needs. CAF established a joint committee that is now working to promote an Ofek Nashi program in the Negev.
Through the Jaffa Convention’s ongoing advocacy work, CAF started working with the Authority for the Economic Development of Arabs, Druze, and Cicassian Sectors at the Prime Minister’s Office. Together, we established Minbar-Bama, a forum for Arab and Jewish businesspeople in Israel.
WHY ARAB WOMEN?
By the most conservative estimate, 42% of Israel’s Arab population lives below the poverty line; other estimates are well over 50%. Arab women generally have very few employment opportunities. There are, however, many courageous Arab women who take it upon themselves to open their own businesses in order to bring some money into Israel’s impoverished and male-dominated Arab sector.
A 2006 survey conducted by CAF and the Masar Institute revealed from a sample of 507 Arab female business owners in the Triangle Area that most of them never received professional training. Only 35% of those surveyed applied appropriate financial standards in managing their businesses, and only 7.4% of the women used computerized systems for managing their businesses. Also, very few of the women ever applied for loans; those who did rarely received one.
"This was an opportunity to receive business consultation that would address the particular problems that we [Arab businesswomen] have to deal with" –
Khadija Diwani, gift shop owner, Taibe
CAF launched the pilot cycle of Ofek Nashi in 2006. Upon the cycle's completion in 2009, CAF commissioned a program evaluation, which highlighted three major program components:
Business management training
Community-building, cooperation, and networking among participants
Conflict transformation training
Based on the report, CAF launched the second cycle of Ofek Nashi in August 2010, engaging 30 new participants in a year-long business training component. Now in it's third round, Ofek Nashi continues to build a strong framework for successful business and female leadership in Arab towns in Israel.
The objective for Ofek Nashi is to create more than just a model for increased participation by Arab women in the economy, but to empower them to be leaders in their communities and potentially in society as a whole. CAF's long-term goal for Ofek Nashi is for the Ministry of Employment to adopt the program model and implement it in other parts of Israel.