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Locked-down and Laid-off, Refusing to Give in

Updated: Nov 30, 2020

The coronavirus may be indiscriminate in who it chooses to infect, but its effects on our lives have been highly discriminatory.

While the majority of people were locked up in their homes, and nearly a million people in the country found themselves either unemployed or on unpaid vacation, the staff and volunteers of Na’am were working harder than ever. Requests for help doubled to both Na’am’s Women’s Rights Center and to the social workers in Na’am.

A Na'am social worker continues to assists all women who need help, despite the conditions

Women who are single mothers or sole providers for their families, many of them working in low paid service jobs, found themselves needing help in obtaining benefits or preventing employers from worsening their conditions. Others found themselves ineligible for benefits with no way to feed their children.

Too many women found themselves suffering physical abuse or living in fear as the shut-in kindled domestic violence and threats. Young women who had been living apart from their families in dorms or other situations were forced to return to homes where they were unsafe.

At Na’am, we:

  • Distributed over 300 food packages and other assistance to families

  • Advised hundreds of women of their rights and helped them obtain support

  • Helped women leave abusive situations, located shelter for them and guided them through the transition

  • Helped women who did not receive benefits to cover their rent or pay bills and thus avoid eviction from their homes.

  • Helped students obtain scholarships to pay their tuition – a win-win situation as they will volunteer in Na’am to help pay the community back

  • Offered a popular seminar on household budgeting and finance management – a must to help women become independent

  • Wrote a policy paper for a Knesset committee on the situation of Arab women during the crisis, calling, among other things, for more shelters and appropriate intervention; and participated in discussions on coordinating responses to Arab women during the shut-in

  • Organized and led demonstrations to protest the fact that women are dying while bills that could alleviate the situation are stuck in the Knesset quagmire

  • Worked with organizations all over the country to take a vocal, firm stance against gender-based violence

A seminar on household budget management may help women live independently

In fact, in the first lock down, municipal social workers had their hours cut, and then they went on strike. Na’am was there, in a number of cases, to pick up the slack. “Instead of us referring women to the proper welfare departments, they were referring women to us,” says Samah Salaime, head of Na’am.

As the country is beginning to consider easing restrictions, many of our women still face abuse and/or severe economic difficulties. At Na’am, we continue to adapt our work to the conditions, developing new platforms so that women can contact us from home, for example, or so that our staff can work remotely as much as possible; and we continue to assess the needs of the women in our communities and respond in the best possible way. Despite the current difficulties, we refuse to give up hope, and we will continue to work to create a brighter future.

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