October 7, 2009

Eshet Chayil: Helping Immigrant Women Achieve Financial Independence

High unemployment rates among women in Israel's Ethiopian and Kavkazi communities have led to widespread poverty and social alienation among these immigrant groups. Cultural differences, child-care responsibilities, language difficulties, and a lack of workplace skills – rather than actual potential – all represent barriers to employment. Yet, entering the workforce can contribute greatly to women’s integration into Israeli society. Workforce participation can expose them to the wider community, aid them in learning Hebrew, transform their self-image, and improve their families’ chances of becoming financially stable.

The Eshet Chayil (Woman of Valor) program helps Ethiopian and Kavkazi women secure and maintain employment by creating a complete support framework to overcome the barriers preventing their integration into the job market. This includes addressing issues such as psychological readiness for work, family adjustment, employers’ expectations, and interview skills. Participants also benefit from emotional support, help in child-care arrangements, and opportunities to improve their Hebrew skills.

The program operates in three stages: job-readiness workshops; individual mentoring; and an Eshet Chayil Job Club, which provides ongoing support to employed program graduates, motivating them to remain and advance in the workplace.


Client Profile: Marina

Kavkazi Israelis – those who immigrated to Israel from the Caucasus Mountain region of the Former Soviet Union – have always struggled to find their economic and social place in Israeli society. Marina's family was no exception. Like many Kavkazi Israelis, she, her husband and their five children live in a distressed part of the country – in Marina's family's case, Tel Aviv's highly underprivileged Hatikvah neighborhood.

As her husband has considerable disabilities, Marina shoulders the burden of providing for the family of seven. She aspired to forge a fulfilling career, but did not know how to go about finding a fulfilling job with decent pay. She had no choice but to spend long and arduous hours working as a cleaner.

Today, Marina still lives in the Hatikvah neighborhood, but she is flourishing in her work in human resources. She dates her turning point to the day that she was invited to join JDC's Eshet Chayil program in Tel Aviv.

Soon after joining Eshet Chayil and gaining the program's advice, knowledge, support and encouragement Marina found a job at a local human resources company. Soon she became widely known in her neighborhood among job seekers and prospective employers alike. Today, having gained some experience, she is on the verge of opening her own job placement business, specializing in a niche group – women who lack Hebrew skills.

Thanks to Eshet Chayil, Marina is aiming high. As she recalls, "At first I was afraid to go out on my own, especially since I still needed to improve my Hebrew. But I am gradually getting there."

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