Laqiya was formed in 1996 to respond to the negative impact of modernization on Bedouin women living in southern Israel. The Bedouin, an Arab ethnic minority, once practiced a nomadic lifestyle that relied on agriculture and livestock for sustenance.
Government confiscation of traditional lands has forced over 120,000 Bedouins to settle in the severe Negev desert of southern Israel. Bedouin settlements are unrecognized by the state, and therefore prohibited from building permanent housing and obtaining basic services such as running water and electricity.
Modernization has significantly impacted women in Bedouin communities. Though cultural traditions restricted women's activity outside the domestic sphere, women have been in charge of building family tents, caring for flocks of sheep and raising crops. The abrupt change caused by living in permanent settlements has stripped Bedouin women of their traditional roles and responsibilities. The unemployment rate of Bedouin women is up to 96 percent and most are now dependent on their husbands.
Through Tatreez Al Badiah Project, widows, divorcees and abandoned women earn an income by selling their traditional embroidered bags, pillows and hangings. Laqiya is sensitive to local customs, allowing women to work from their homes even as they strengthen their independence.
In addition, Laqiya offers weekly seminars on women's rights, health care and literacy, and encourages women to take an active part in family and community life. A mobile library, also run by the group, encourages women and village children to read.
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