The Policy of the Ministry of Welfare in Issues of Women and Girls in Crisis
Naila Awwad-Rashed – Projects Coordinator
Raneen Khazen – Services Unit Coordinator
The relationship between women and the state has been the center of numerous researches, especially in recent years. These researches see great importance in connecting the status of women not only with the patriarchal culture, but also with the institutional oppression in the state and the role the institutions of the state play in preserving the inferiority of women and intensifying patriarchal values (Ghanem, H. 2005. Approaches to Women's Issues – Women Against Violence).
In recent years, we have witnessed reductions in the state's budget, especially within social welfare budgets. Of course, women were in the head of the harmed groups by these reductions, being the weakened group. This was reflected in reality and we have been raising a crying voice that there is a lack in jobs for social workers, as each social worker has more than 100 cases to handle within a 50% job. This creates a great challenge for social workers to fully deal with each case and their work with women and girls in crisis becomes merely putting out fires.
It is well known that in the current economical situation, especially in the Arab local councils, clerks strike a lot lately mainly in social services units, and worsen the case. This way, social workers have to fight for their living instead of getting all the time needed for doing their jobs properly. Such a situation deprives individuals needing help of any support which can help them overcome their crisis.
In addition to the above obstacles, which limit the work of a social worker, there are the state's policies that no aware conscience can accept. When asked about these policies, the authorities merely say that "these are the rules and conditions."
Here are a few examples of some of the state's pre-conditions for giving budgets to sexual abuse crisis centers:
1) The number of calls (only those reporting sexual harassment or abuse)
2) The number of meeting with callers.
3) The number of raising-awareness lectures the center gives.
4) The number of support groups for sexually abused women the center holds.
5) The number of jobs the center offers.
6) The number of training courses for employees the center holds.
If we consider the nine crisis centers found in Israel: Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Be'er Sheva, Raa'nana, Ta'ir, Haifa, Nazreth, Kiryat Shemona and the Center for Religious Jewish Women, hand in hand with the ministry's conditions, we can see that this is an "enrich the rich and impoverish the poor" policy. Take for example our crisis center: It is the only center for Arab women inside Israel and so it receives all the calls from Arab women who are victims to all kinds of violence, not only sexual. If a center has enough workers and volunteers, it will expand and the number of calls will rise.
With no stimulations from the state for small low-budget centers, they cannot expand to reach more women, support, and accompany them.
It is obvious that all the state’s measurements are numeral, thus, the next question is asked: how is the authenticity of the reports the different crisis centers present to the Ministry of Welfare for receiving budgets measured? Especially when bids are given to capitalists and merchants who deal with the issue of supplying services to women victims of violence as a gain and loss deal and a mere business interest.
This policy is also reflected in the field of social work: there are not enough jobs and budgets (as the latter are calculated according to "paying for the head" and not in accordance to the will to reach every girl and woman in danger), a thing that reduces the possibility of reaching as many women in crisis as possible. Consequently, the ministry claims that there are not any girls and women in need for these services, and so it closes necessary service centers such as the "A-Sawsan" center for girls suffering from problems and violence in their homes, but are not in danger. The center was closed even though it is necessary for reinforcing these girls' self-confidence in order for them to continue living in dignity and get education and professional training. The Ministry of Welfare closed down A-Sawsan center claiming that there are not enough girls in crisis calling or attending it.
The question to be addressed to the ministry is this: are there enough social workers to reach all girls in crisis in our Arab towns so these girls can attend such centers? The answer is a definite No. It is well known that social service offices in Arab towns suffer an enormous lack in social workers as a result of the lack in budgets. Social worker Emil Sama'an, the coordinator of the forum of directors of social service offices, told Dr. Ibraheem Mahajneh in his article "Who is Responsible for the Failure of Social Services Offices in Arab Towns?" that there are 200 social worker jobs in all Arab towns (Dirasat, 2008). In a survey done for a research we have conducted at Women Against Violence, 62.9% of the people asked said that they support addressing social welfare services (by girls and women in crisis), and 65.7% said they support receiving services from feminist organizations. These figures confirm that the Arab society does not object to the existence of supporting centers protecting women from the different kinds of violence they are object to; they show that it is the ministries and their policies that hold back their support to establishing these centers or transfer too little budgets to them based on the principle of "being satisfied with little" and the policy of keeping the Arab traditions.
In addition, there is only one shelter for Arab girls in crisis and it inhabits only 12 girls, between the ages of 12 – 25, at a time. Here we ask the ministry: What about the other girls? Is it possible that one shelter is enough to accommodate all of our Arab girls in crisis from south to north? Are there any other strategies you use to put out fires and intensify the mentality of inferiority in the Arab society beside the strategy of "pottery smashes itself" (an Arab saying) instead of any feminist/prerogative organization supporting women in taking their rights? It should be noted that the case is similar with the halfway house for Arab girls in crisis, where they get rehabilitated on the way to an independent life and which can inhabit only up to 10 girls a year.
We hereby hold responsible the following:
1) The state and its unjust financial policy towards women in general and Arab women in particular.
2) The Ministry of Labor and Welfare, for its dealing with the issue as a business and not as a social/prerogative issue demanding a transformation of the unjust reality towards women.
On the other hand, we want to express an admonition whisper to:
1) The supervisors of the ministry, who function as the link between the field and ministry, and as the executive body. It is their responsibility to adjust the policy to reality and not the other way around.
2) The social workers, who need to join forces for bravely uncovering the policies of ministry and leading to changing them.
3) The Arab mayors whom we see responsible for demanding budgets and promoting the issue of social services offered to girls and women up their priority scale.
4) And finally to us, feminist/prerogative organizations, as the responsibility falls on us to support each other and join forces against any possible attacks by the ministry against our theses or professionalism and to resist its dictation of its policy on us. We totally believe that we cannot accept that our struggle against the ministry's policies should hinder our work for women and their protection. Nonetheless, we believe that we can unite in the struggle against the state's policies which see in women and their issues mere numbers and statistics.