The Association for the Improvement of Women’s Status, Lakia:
Who We Are, What We Do
We are the first Bedouin women’s organization recognized as a non-profit association by the Israeli government in 1996.
How We Began
In the late 1980s, a group of teenage Bedouin high school girls in Lakia got together to improve their community. They started a summer camp for children and taught reading and writing to illiterate women.
From Nomadic to Village Life
The women of Lakia had only recently moved from a nomadic desert existence to settled village life and were unfamiliar with the running of a modern home. We provided home economics guidance: how to cook on a stove instead of an open fire, how to store food in a refrigerator, how to keep a house clean and more.
Why We Focus on Women
For women the transition to town life was particularly difficult. They lost traditional women’s roles and their central status in the family and community. Today, fewer than 12% of Bedouin women in the Negev participate in the work force. Their patriarchal society discourages women from working and they lack the education & training to compete in the Israeli job market.
The Poorest Minority Group in Israel
Over 190,000 Bedouin live in the Negev with 100,000 under the age of 18. Half live in ten recognized villages like Lakia. The rest live in unrecognized villages that lack running water, sewers, electricity, garbage collection, paved roads, health clinics, and public transportation. 75% of Bedouin families live under the poverty line. Four out of five children live under the poverty line.
How We Help
We are committed to improving the lives of Bedouin women and children through economic empowerment and the advancement of education and culture.
The Desert Embroidery Project – develops alternative income sources and preservers traditional skills to restore the contribution of women’s to their families’ income. Some 80 women work at home producing traditional hand embroidery which we sew into attractive items for the home. The embroiderers are paid for everything they produce and participate in educational lectures and trips.
The Desert Embroidery Visitor Center and Store – hosts cultural activities for Israeli and foreign tourists to enhance understanding and coexistence. Through lectures, home-cooked meals and the Desert Embroidery store, the Visitor Center generates income for Bedouin women in the Desert Embroidery Project. Over 200 tour groups from Israel and abroad visit us each year.
Our Mobile Library – began operating in a donkey cart in the streets of Lakia a decade ago. Today over 1,000 children freely exchange books in Lakia and the surrounding towns. In a community lacking public libraries and a tradition of reading, the mobile library nurtures a love of books and develops children’s educational skills.
Our Youth Leadership Projects – Teenage girls and boys meet to engage in projects in the community with a focus on volunteering, women's rights, the importance of higher education, and community advocacy.
Our Educational Projects – we run a summer camp for under-privileged children and English, mathematics and computer classes for youth.
Our Place in the Community
In the early years, we faced male opposition including the burning of our headquarters. Today Desert Embroidery is a dynamic meeting place for women providing information on health and family care, education, and women’s rights. We have raised awareness on genetic diseases caused by kinship marriage, the importance of education for both male and female children, pre-natal care, domestic violence, and more.
How We Make a Difference
Evidence of improvement is visible throughout Lakia. More women allow their daughters to study beyond the eighth grade and others encourage their daughters to continue to university. Through Desert Embroidery women who would otherwise be restricted to their homes can expand their horizons and earn money to support their children’s education. At Desert Embroidery, women become aware of the greater possibilities existing for their younger sisters, their children and themselves.
How Can You Make a Difference?
We are working to increase earned income from Desert Embroidery sales and tourist visits to decrease reliance on outside funding, but all our projects need financial support. We have new projects in the works: expansion of Mobile Library services to additional children; sewing and design courses to enable women to open home-based businesses; joint Bedouin-Jewish youth projects, and more. We invite you to contact us for information on how you can help, or make a donation on-line at our web site: www.desert-embroidery.org .
The Association for the Improvement of Women’s Status, Lakia
POB 1013 Lakia 84991, Israel Tel: +972-8-6513208 Fax: +972-8-6513186
Non-Profit Registration No.: 58-026553-6