Women Against Violence is a feminist and social change organization that works to advance the status of Arab women in Israel. The organization was founded by a group of Arab women pioneers, including social workers, attorneys and activists in women's organizations.
Established in 1992, Women Against Violence is one of the leading feminist Palestinian organizations, with a range of programs and services catering to the diverse needs of Arab women.
Interview with Aida Touma-Suliman – Executive Director
Tell us a little about yourself and your approach.
Women Against Violence is a feminist and social change organization that works to advance Arab women in Israel. We are based in Nazareth, but we are a national organization. I am one of the founders of the organization and I have been serving as its executive director since 1994.
We are a group of women who are active on the subject of women's rights in general and in the Arab population in particular. We established the association because we felt that the issue of women's rights is one we encounter every day, both professionally and in our living environment. The lack of solutions and attention to this issue, and worse yet the taboo surrounding domestic violence, were behind the reason to establish the association. We began to think of ways to help women and change the overall social situation.
What motivates you to do the things you do?
The refusal to accept existing wrongs in society, outrage in the face of injustice and a desire to change the status quo.
Tell us about your organization: What do you do?
First of all, we transformed the issue of violence against women in Arab society, from a taboo that no one acknowledged to a subject of social consensus and universal condemnation. We also established pioneering services for Arab women suffering from domestic violence:
- We established a telephone hotline and program in Nazareth to accompany women in filing complaints and during hospital visits.
- In 1993, we established the first shelter in Israel for battered Arab women and their children.
- In September 1993, we established a shelter for minors.
Over the years, we have become a feminist resource not only for people in Israel but in the entire region. We lead training programs in various fields for teams in the Arab world, not only on the subject of violence against women.
We are also active in promoting legislation relating to personal status, through a coalition we initiated that includes other civil society organizations. We are also working with a group of women and men to promote equality and advance the employment of Arab women and their right to representation in decision-making positions.
What are your objectives for the coming year?
We will continue to provide our services and to develop our existing areas of work, and we also plan to enhance our activity on the regional level of the Middle East. We will focus on two key areas:
- Responding to the needs of Syrian women refugee who are the victims of violence.
- The impact of social organizations on constitutional changes in countries that have undergone political revolutions. The goal is to include women in decision-making mechanisms in these countries, in order to ensure egalitarian legislation.
What suggestions do you have for today's young women?
To be active in changing the status quo and not to assume that individual efforts can change society. Action must be organized with a real vision in order to secure results. True social action achieves things through the political prism: people organize and help change the balance of power in society. So my suggestion to young women is to become part of an organized activity rather than rely on individual success.
What is the greatest challenge you faced in the course of your work?
I see any challenge in my work as a great challenge but not a great obstacle. When our activities lead to victory, the real challenge has always been – and still is – to reach people and engage them in our struggle. This refers to both women and men; our aspiration is to make men partners in our struggle.
What is your vision for the future of our society?
I would like to live in a society that offers all its citizens equal opportunities regardless of their gender, race or age; a society that believes that every citizen deserves an equal opportunity to develop their abilities.
I would like to see a society in which justice is a supreme value.
If you had three wishes, what would you ask for?
- First, I would like to give the organization the financial stability it needs – to enjoy financial and ideological stability and to continue to achieve success.
- Another wish is to see a new wave of young women taking on the goals that we have been fighting for all these years.
- The dream is simply to keep on struggling with more peace and calm.