WIZO is guiding women towards a better future
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FEATURE

WIZO is guiding women towards a better future

WIZO's new campaign is the way forward for disadvantaged women and girls

Louisa Walters is Features Editor at the Jewish News and specialises in food and travel writing

Women empowering women is very much a theme of the 21st century. So Rebecca Sieff, Romana Goodman and Vera Weizmann were ahead of their time, as it’s more than 100 years since they established an international organisation of women working together to support disadvantaged women and their children in what was then Palestine. The year was 1918. Today WIZO has more than 250,000 members in over 40 countries.

WIZO has always campaigned for women’s rights, their safety in the home and on the streets, and their equality in the workplace. One of the early projects was the establishment of Nahalal, a village in northern Israel to teach women agriculture. The vision was to empower them to play a part in building society. WIZO’s social welfare work has expanded to address every social welfare need, at every stage of life, regardless of race, religion or gender. “WIZO’s commitment to girls at risk and vulnerable and disadvantaged women is to keep them safe, help discover their potential and campaign for equality in the workplace; changing lives, building futures and enabling fulfilled and contributing members of the community,” says Maureen Fisher, CEO at WIZO.

The pandemic has highlighted a frightening increase across the globe in the levels of violence against women, particularly domestic abuse. There are 200,000 known cases in Israel and more than 1,300,000 in the UK. The WIZO Rule recently passed in Israel makes it law for any man proven to have been violent against a woman to undergo therapy. WIZO established a men’s hotline for those struggling to control their anger and reaching out for help – it is the only one of its kind in Israel. By treating the perpetrator himself rather than just removing the women and children from the home, WIZO has proven that it is possible to reduce domestic violence.

WIZO believes that education is vital in the prevention of abuse and in turning around the lives of victims, and to this end operates programmes in schools educating teenagers of the warning signs of harassment and abuse and how to identify and cope with negative influences and aggressive behaviour during the dating phase of a relationship.

For teenage girls from violent, neglectful and dysfunctional homes, emotional damage, poor self-esteem and low function levels are common, leading to dropping out of school and engaging in criminal activity. WIZO’s 18 ‘Warm Homes’ programmes massively improve their chances of a normative future.

Girls born into families on the social or physical periphery of Israel are often faced with challenges beyond the hardships of poverty, neglect and abuse. Gender stereotyping and feelings of inferiority destroy their self-confidence. These girls are at great risk of leading a self-destructive life and continuing the cycle to the next generation. WIZO programmes in five Israeli cities work to counter this by empowering these girls to believe in themselves.

WIZO’s 2022/2023 campaign, Women Leading the Way, has a key message – improving the lives of women and girls to enable them to become happy and fulfilled individuals and contributing citizens to society. “This month WIZO women ‘take to the streets’ marking the 75th anniversary of WIZO’s unique door-to-door collection, Jewish Women’s Week (JWW),” says Maureen. “How appropriate that as women across the globe face a sharp increase in the levels of abuse in the home and on the streets, JWW ‘opens the door’ to Women Leading The Way, a campaign celebrating the value of women and shining a light on their significant contribution across every spectrum of society.”

Women Leading The Way will run through until April 2023 with a programme of events and activities highlighting women’s issues and fundraising for related areas of WIZO’s work. wizouk.org

 

 

SUCCESS STORIES

DINA’S STORY

Dina had been abused for years by her husband. When he started to beat her two children, she fled in the middle of the night with them to a WIZO shelter which took her in and helped her with the psychological trauma. They also provided Dina with supplies and gave her the strength to rebuild her life through the WIZO Safety Net programme.

“Without WIZO I would still be that defenceless woman, cowering on the floor. Now I can stand up tall and take care of my family,” she says.

LEAH’S STORY

Noa had heard her neighbour Gilad screaming at his wife Leah and had noticed that their once-happy teenage children seemed sad and downtrodden. She persuaded Leah to convince Gilad to seek treatment at a WIZO Centre for the Treatment and Prevention of Violence. After much therapy, Gilad is a calmer version of his former self and his children are once again happy to be in the family home.

“I cannot say thank you enough to WIZO for helping Gilad and keeping our family together,” says Leah.

ADI’S STORY

14 year-old Adi’s perception of ‘normal’ was that of her Mum always working, and her absent father frequently in jail. Adi fell in with others who were experiencing problems at home. They were using drugs to cope and she became a user and a small-time dealer. Adi found herself regularly in trouble with the police and eventually she contacted WIZO’s Warm Home Programme. Six months down the line with therapy and counselling, Adi cut herself off from the people who involved her in drugs and is now working through her emotions alongside other teenagers who have gone through similar experiences.

“I thought I was alone with my probelms and there was no way out, but WIZO has helped me see that I can change that,” she says.

DANYA’S STORY

Danya, a respiratory nurse at Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon, was working 15-hour shifts during the height of the pandemic. Needing to find childcare for her three-year-old son Rafi, she placed him at the WIZO Day Care Centre at the hospital. This meant that she could continue her vital work in the knowledge that he was nearby, in a stimulating and caring environment.

“Thanks to WIZO, I can go to work feeling calm and secure, knowing that my son is in a great framework that gives him all he needs,” she says.

 

 

 

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