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Thursday 26 April 2012


Many women who seek assistance through the Fighting against Prostitution and Trafficking in Women project in Isha L’Isha live in Israel without any legal status. Most of them are mothers to children and in dire need of assistance and close accompaniment in various processes. As these women live in constant fear of deportation from Israel, they do not approach the authorities or state institutes for assistance; as a result, their rights are severely violated.

We have listened to the different voices of these women during years of our activities, and they have guided us in designing assistance strategies to meet their unique needs. We identified two central issues: first, we learned that multi-cultural sensitivity is of great importance in processes involving assistance and support. Furthermore, understanding women’s culture of origin is essential for facilitating effective treatment and assistance compatible with the women’s needs.

Second, we learned that most of the women have not received any substantial support or assistance during their initial and critical stage of stay in Israel. Thus, for example, women trafficked in the past to Israel have been invisible both from the public as well as the state authorities. Therefore, for a long time, it was impossible to even know of their existence and to reach them in order to provide them with the direly needed assistance.

The issue of not receiving assistance in real time was also brought up by women immigrants with legal status in Israel, who raised similar questions: why didn’t they know about the Ministry of Interior procedures? Why didn’t they know about the existence of the Ministry of Welfare, or about the existence of services addressing their needs? Moreover, most of the women noted that during their years of stay in Israel, they never received any explanation or information about their rights, nor about the welfare system in Israel.

In the issues of multi-cultural sensitivity and not receiving assistance and support in real time, we identified specific problems that were raised over and over by the women themselves. These include a wide range of areas, such as: lack of awareness among representatives of the Ministry of Interior and other authorities for women’s rights, (including lack of knowledge of, and/or ignoring procedures, legislation and more); lack of awareness among the women themselves of their rights; distrust of state institutions and lack of cultural understanding on the part of state representatives; different social values, different worldviews and perspectives of concepts such as personal empowerment and self-blame. We also realized that trafficked women have different priorities culturally.