Focusing on employment opportunities and economic development in the Negev region of Israel. Increasing Bedouin woman’s visibility, equality and participation in all aspects of community life.

Sidreh is an amutah (a non-profit charity registered under Israeli law) established in 1998 to empower, represent and improve the socio-economic situation of Bedouin women living in the Negev region of Israel. Sidreh focuses on employment opportunities and economic development. It increases woman’s visibility, equality and participation in all aspects of community life, while improving their self confidence and leadership skills.

Sidreh creates and administers literacy programs that teach women how to read and write Arabic. They also organize programs that teach job training and business skills.

Lakiya Weaving, a Sidreh initiative, gives Bedouin women training and leads to self-sustaining income through textile weaving projects.

Literacy Achievements

  • More than 1,470 adult Bedouin women can read and write thanks to Sidreh's literacy program.
  • More than 60 adult women have completed high school and Israeli university preparation exams (bagrut) through Sidreh's Adult Education Program.
  • More than 1,700 women have participated in our leadership and rights (Education, Health, Housing and Employment) awareness programs.
  • Sidreh is the only organization that develops adult education programs in the “unrecognized villages”, which present alarming illiteracy rates.
  • Led to the creation of the Adult Education Forum, which represents 16 local and national organizations.
  • The Forum developed and continuously updates the only Arab language adult education curriculum in the Negev.

Community Development Achievements

  • Built the first Women’s Center in an Unrecognized Village
  • Supported the consolidation of local Women Committees, which develops activities for more than 90 women.
  • Works in close collaboration with local men and institutions in order to create a sense of trust and harmony between men and women.
  • Many of the empowerment and literacy training beneficiaries have joined a committee to develop government recommendations as part of their village development planning process.

Advocacy and Awareness Achievements

  • Developed the first women’s newspaper in the Negev, with 11,000 copies per month; distributed to more than 50 villages.
  • Leads a digital media campaign and blogs to discuss relevant women issues with the participation of over 4000 members.
  • Participated as a member and speaker in several international scenarios such as the Palestinian Women’s Network, and CEDAW’s regional meetings in Cyprus and New York, the UN Minorities Forum in Geneva in 2010, among others.
  • Sidreh promoted the mobilization of almost 700 local women to demonstrate against home demolitions. For the first time Bedouin women organized a demonstration and traveled to Jerusalem to meet with members of the Israeli parliament and speak to the media.

Sidreh Case Studies

Focusing on employment opportunities and economic development in the Negev region of Israel. Increasing Bedouin woman’s visibility, equality and participation in all aspects of community life.

Case Study 1: Um Ali's Story

Um Ali is a strong woman, native from an Unrecognized Bedouin Village. She looks older that what she really is; her face wrinkled from the long hours under the sun. She tells her story, hesitantly...

“Maybe because I got married so young,” she says, “or because I was never exposed to the outside world, or to finish my studies, I ended up stuck in a dark hole, lost in a harsh loneliness. Precisely because of my ignorance, I did not know the way out, and remained under those circumstances for a very long time.”

“I did not understand that I, and only I can withdraw myself from this situation, and the more I shut down to myself, the more I made things worse.”

Um Ali believes that men love strong, smart and courageous women. Her husband—she says—wasa good man that never claimed that she was weak. But he needed her beside him, supporting him through all the challenges of life. “And I felt that I lacked the strength, and felt useless. So I kept on searching and searching... and many years past until I found myself with seven children that did not just need food, a clean house and a organized bed. I understood that they also needed a mother that would provide them with warmth, love, advice and guidance to become strong and talented in the future. “

That is when Um Ali started to read books. She read all kinds of subjects, from psychology to education, to stories and lessons from lives of many people. She started applying some of those lessons in her own life and that of her family's. Soon Um Ali felt more confident. She started looking for other ways for self growth and became acquainted with Sidreh's literacy groups.

“I joined this group with two purposes, the first one was to read and write well in hebrew so that I could better understand my doctor, and also to read the letters that I never ment to open, and to peek what there was in them. And the second aim was to go out of the house, and feel that I am doing and trying new things...”

After a few classes, Um Ali started attending meetings at her children's school, and taking them to the health center without the help of her husband. “I was able to reduce some of my husband's burden”--she admits proudly.

“Today, after two years of growth and development through my literacy group, it's me reading news in the newspaper, and having a great conversation with the doctors and nurses. I feel how this change has helped me and how stupid I was that I did not take advantage of so many long years without contributing to myself and my family.  I have all the skills andpower to manage my life and help my children in their studies, and in their personal issues and adolescent problems. My husband is very content with me and supports me in this process. He even gives me his vehicle in order to arrive to my group meetings.”

Indeed, Um Ali was the first woman to acquire a driver's license in the entire village


Case Study 2: Coping with disabilities

The following story is a translation of a letter published in Sidreh's newspaper. The author has chosen not to disclose her name.

“I live in a recently recognized village, but we still don't have basic and crucial services. I'm an illiterate woman, who can't read and write at all, I got married when I was relatively 'old', so the society wasn't good with me (calling names, etc.), my mother died when I was young.”

I'm a mother to 4 children, and I want to tell you my story hoping that here (in the Sidreh newspaper) I can find someone who will hear me, since I couldn't find it anywhere else. My problem is that I had trouble giving birth with my son and the doctor and nurse had to (as they say) pull my baby from his arm. As a resault, he can't move his arm at all. When I saw my baby's arm I turned to the doctor and he said it was the best way to pull him out, and I kept asking my self, are they stupied? Is this the only way to do it? Didn't they had another choice? Couldn't they make a Caesarean section? If they had made it, than the result would have been better, my son won't lose his hand and he would be like any other child in his age.

The doctors tried to fix their mistake, they told me to go to natural medicine, but it didn't help him. I wanted to make a legal suit, but then I remembered that It wouldn't help, because I tried to do it with my first son, who was born in a very bad physical situation, he can't move at all, and I have all the notes that confirm the mistake that has been done, without a use... I didn't have an answer until now. I don't know who is responsible, who should I turn to? What to do??

There is a big carelessness from the nurses. Not so long ago I was with my first son in Soruka and the nurse put the needle in his arm (with the medicine), and my son can't understand what it is, and he even doesn't feel anything (warm/cold or anything else), so he kept on pulling it out. Then she came and shouted on us things that I don't understand, only few words and didn't put the needle again in order to 'teach him a lesson'. I told one Arab doctor over there and he told her to put it back.

The author has recently joined Sidreh's litteracy training groups with the hope of learning to read and write, and become empowered to stand up for her children. Her husband is in jail, so she has to support her family on her own. She has 4 children—two of them with disabilities. She hopes that one day she will be able to have an adequate conversation with the medical staff and help her children.