Three years ago, ActionAid staff organized a meeting with a number of women in Al Karmil village as part of the ActionAid programme. The purpose of the meeting was to form a REFLECT group to analyze the needs of the community.
Al Karmil village is located in the eastern part of the Masafer Yatta cluster, 18 km south of Hebron. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), the total population of Al Karmil is around 3,741 people. One third of the total population depends on agriculture in their living.
The women, at first glance, were doubtful, hesitant, and unable to see the profitability of such a plan. The use of a participatory approach to achieve a common goal seemed to be farfetched and unattainable. Despite their frustration withtheir living conditions and lack of opportunities, the women found it a challenge to find their strengths and confidence in such a male-dominated and conservative community.
They admitted that they had no ideas or vision for the future when they started attending the Reflect group meetings. Some of them were there to spend time, others did not even bother to respond to the invitation. Moreover, it was difficult for women in such a community to be part of a group and attend meetings without the husband/parents consent and it took a great deal of strength and self confidence to do so or even to ask for “permission” to join. Furthermore, the community objected to forming a women group and even fought it. It was even more difficult to persuade people of the idea since there are no material gains.
After a number of meetings, the group began to realize some of their strengths and weaknesses, the obstacles they are facing and the fact that many of the limitations are avoidable. Soon afterwards, the group became aware that one of their biggest challenge is the fact that they have a large number of unemployed university graduates because they are all seeking the same type of jobs in the education field, they all want to become teachers.
As a result, the women decided to form a Graduate Union in the village to serve the needs of graduate women who suffer the same problems of unemployment. They had a vision of being able to demand their share of jobs in the community and the surrounding towns and villages, to be able to diversify the jobs women seek and the job hunting techniques that are used. Consequently, Al Karmil Pioneers was formed.
ActionAid supported the group by offering a place to meet and small financial contributions to allow the women to commute to attend the meetings. The staff also helped organising a number of training sessions in subjects related to writing resumes and interview skills among others. One of the women commented: “None of the NGOs that came to the village did things right, none of them tried to develop our ideas and thoughts. Ideas and skills last forever, financial aid does not.”
Nowadays, Al Karmil Pioneers is an official body with over 35 members. The members managed to tackle most of the challenges they faced to establish one-of-a-kind organization that intends to serve the community in various ways. Creativity became key of these women's actions and thought process. They managed to break out of the ties binding them to start something new.
They organized a number of activities, workshops and campaigns to raise awareness on matters related to employment and diversifying specialty fields for girls and the range of jobs that women can apply for and do, as they found that this was the root cause of their problem.
They also organized a number of trips and lectures for students on different issues. They are now expanding their activities. There is a plan to conduct illiteracy classes and some food processing classes in four nearby villages.
Al Karmil Pioneers are looking for a brighter future where they can still be unified, expand their work to nearby communities and serve women's needs in these communities by urging them to build their confidence and use their limitless potential. They seek to become a reputable and visible body with an ultimate goal of changing lives and improving the living conditions not only in their community but in surrounding areas as well.