Bedouin residents in the Negev
Over 200,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel live in extremely unstable and challenging conditions in the Negev. Approximately 40% of the population lives in “unrecognized villages”, whose residents are prevented from building permanent structures. They have no infrastructure (i.e. running water or sanitation, electricity, or roads), and they live under the constant threat of eviction or house demolition by the State. Bedouin villages struggle economically – six of the seven poorest localities in the country are Arab-Bedouin, and their unemployment rates reach up to 80%.
Owning to a combination of state discrimination and entrenched patriarchal norms within their own society, Bedouin women are the most vulnerable and marginalized group in Israeli society.
Only 11% have completed high school and there is still a 61% high school dropout rate among Bedouin girls, indicating cultural and institutional barriers to gaining an education. Additionally, approximately 90% of Bedouin women are unemployed, while 40% live in polygamous marriages.
Entrenched poverty and low levels of education push Bedouin women to care for the day-to-day survival of their families and hinder their meaningful participation in econoimc, social and political development. Bedouin women are mainly confined to the private sphere and lack safe public spaces where they can meet and particpate.
Currently no Bedouin women are in any elected positions. The lack of meaningul and significant representation of Bedouin women in decision-making bodies at local and national levels constitutes a real and immediate threat to their personal status and security and prevents genuine democratic processes from taking root.
What Bedouin Women say
Based on the results of Sidreh’s participatory research, Bedouin women are keen to address their marginalization in public life, with respondents stating the need to challenge gender-based barriers to personal and community progress and participation in democratic life. Bedouin women are keen to make their own choices and take control over their lives, and many have the skills to do so. Bedouin women are asking for an opportunity to lead and make a change in the community. Their voice should not only be heard, but also acted upon to realize the rights and entitlements of all women in the community. To this end, Sidreh supports Bedouin women by facilitating access to knowledge, resources and by mobilizing women’s decision-making, helping them to build on their own strengths.