Women's Day blog: Sindyanna of Galilee- a sustainable economic model, with social and political aims

Hadas Lahav
Sindyanna of Galilee

Over half of Arabs in Israel live in poverty. Within this population, there are 200,000 women of working age who have no post-school qualifications. Sindyanna refuses to regard them as a lost generation. Instead, the social enterprise seeks to empower these women and help them acquire skills appropriate for the modern Israeli labour market. These skills include basket weaving, independent small business management and the Hebrew language, which is a condition for seeking work. 

Shirin and Nadia share their stories about how their lives changed after finding opportunities at Sindyanna. 

Shirin Awawda, a mother of three in her 40's, was a typical Arab housewife until two years ago when she joined Sinyanna's production team in her home village of Kanna. 

"After I was married I used to spend my days doing house chores at home. I hardly got to see people outside the family, and I felt quite isolate. But since I began working at SIndyanna, many aspects of my life have changed. First, my family now has two salaries, and that makes an enormous difference to us. Secondly, going out to work has forced me to become more organized and efficient. In Sindyanna, I work side by side with Arab and Jewish women. I also get to meet people who come to our visitors' centre from all over the world. I feel that my horizons have expanded. I feel that Sindyanna's success is our success too. I know that my work in Sindyanna has impacted not just myself, but my daughters too. Their lives will be completely different because my experience shows them that they can achieve great things. They will have more opportunities to study, to see the world and to develop. I will never agree for my daughters to get married at eighteen as I did. I will make sure they live their lives as independent women."

Nadia Giol lives in Upper Nazareth. She joined Sindyanna's team in 2015 and works as chief group coordinator and facilitator in their Visitors Centre in Kanna of Galilee. Nadia was born in the Galilee and as a child lived on a small plot of land her family retained after the 1948 war. Nadia and other Sindyanna women have recently started leading a new and unique project. The project links women’s empowerment with sustainable agriculture and involves hydroponics.

“I grew up in the fields, learned how to grow the food we ate; vegetables and fruit, poultry, sheep and beef. We never bought any food from the outside. I inherited my mother’s love for the land and the environment, for animals and for nature. Hydroponics is a clean and healthy agricultural practice, using simple methods where no land is available. Many Arab women have free time. They can learn new skills and save time and money by growing their own food. Most have flat roofs or yards; so hydroponics is a real possibility for them. We need to promote this model, to develop awareness of the importance of self-sufficiency and sustainable economy. This is a long-term process; like helping women go out to work, it also takes time.”

Sindyanna of Galilee was established in 1996 as a social justice-oriented business. Led by a team of Arab and Jewish women, they work to create social change in Israel from the ground up. Their goals are to produce outstanding olive oil while enhancing Arab-Jewish cooperation, promoting Fair Trade, creating economic opportunities for women and supporting local growers and producers. All their revenues are invested in the creation of jobs for Arab women. They have been Ӯ members since 2003. Sindyanna's premium Fair Trade food products reach many Ӯ members and are also available online on AmazonUS.