Gila Oshrat, Chairperson WIZO Israel spent a week in Sydney at the end of May as she attended the International Council of Jewish Women (ICJW) Quadrennial Convention together with Jewish women from 50 affiliates worldwide. The Convention was called Evolving Beyond Tradition – The impact of Women’s Perspectives and Developing Roles.
WIZO NSW Executive members gave Gila the” Sydney tour” and spent many hours in conversation with her, listening and tapping into her wealth of knowledge. WIZO NSW hosted a morning tea at Beth WIZO with Gila at which she thanked WIZO Australia for all the wonderful work done and the commitment of its volunteers.
“WIZO is a splendid story of volunteering, combined with a love, devotion and commitment to Israeli society,” she said. Gila spoke about the work WIZO Israel does. The Israeli Federation takes responsibility, dares, innovates and leads varied and important activities in order to reduce social and gender gaps. WIZO creates change and makes every effort to create a better society. An equal and healthy society. “Branches exist all over the country with volunteers, who are occupied every day with sacred work on behalf of weaker population, and invest time and creativity in the work of raising money.” There are 47 branches all over the country, from the north to the south. Volunteers run all the branches. They have more than 40,000 members, about 10 percent of whom are active volunteers in various projects. The branches and the volunteers are the motivating force. They are the spirit of the movement, and they are the central pivot around which our huge social enterprise in WIZO revolves. The aspiration is that each and every branch will be a magnet for change and empowerment in the community.
Gila spoke of the sad reality that there are many teenagers living in distress in Israel.
According to various estimates, there are today in Israel tens of thousands of teenage girls defined as girls in distress. These teenage girls with emotional problems, problems in connections with their parents, teenage girls who have been raped or suffered sexual abuse. WIZO believes in the ability of these girls who struggle with dangerous life situations, to help themselves, and to take responsibility for their lives, on the condition that they are in a supportive environment, based on mutually and equality. This belief guides WIZO in developing and running unique programs, tailored to their needs. In this framework WIZO run, among other things, warm homes for girls suffering from emotional abandonment. אפשר לוותר על הפיסקה הבאה (Alongside a professional staff member, who cares for the girls, the volunteers are there for them, receiving them with a warm hug, giving them a hot meal, helping and supporting them.)
Dozens of teenage girls, who are in difficult situations of risk and distress, find a warm corner and receive rehabilitative care at the ADI Centre in Beersheva. These girls at risk, come from prostitution and drugs, and the ADI Centre is their last hope.
“And this is where we say thanks to WIZO Australia for creating מקום בלב Makom Balev, which is an extension of ADI , and serves as a protected space for teenage girls and young women, in the cycle of prostitution, and includes emergency sleeping quarters” she said.
The Centre provides a therapeutic, rehabilitative and educational response and each of the girls has an individual program built for her. Beds are provided so they do not have to sleep on the street. The girls also receive occupational rehabilitation. A clinical dietitian has prepared programs to develop theirs skills in cooking and therapeutic gardening.
Many teenage girls, on the edge of risk and distress fall between the cracks. They are not cared for by the social welfare services, or by any other body. For this population WIZO Israel has developed the program עוצמה צעירה- young empowerment. The teenage girls, who participate in this program, have high potential and personal ability, but there is a risk. If no preventive measures are taken, they may go downhill.
As a women’s movement with a gender agenda – working for the advancement of women and gender equality – is at the core of WIZO Israel’s activity. “We work to change policy and promote legislation in the Israeli parliament כנסת: We run a system of counselling and legal aid to women who want to realize their rights according to family and labour laws. Dozens of volunteers – lawyers, psychologists, social workers and mediators, run the system.”
WIZO ISRAEL is the body that is most active in the struggle against domestic violence. Domestic violence is a severe social phenomenon that touches all levels of society, with no difference between status, education or social situations. Domestic violence is a grave violation of human rights.
“In this struggle we work in all spheres, starting with raising public awareness by mean of campaign, through advancing legislation, alongside developing services and therapeutic frameworks for the victims.”
Most poignantly she ended by quoting Churchill” “A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity.
An optimist – sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
“Our difficulties are many, but our opportunities are immense. Thanks to your backing WIZO Australia and your partnership, we succeed. In taking advantage of the opportunities, we succeed in realizing and running our programs, and for all this I want to say two words that says it all – thank you!”