Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has opened a new center for female Bedouin students that will serve their particular needs, including empowerment workshops and social activities.
A new student center for female Bedouin students at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev will serve as a safe “warm home away from home” for Bedouin women studying at the university.
About 70% of the nearly 450 Bedouin who study at Ben-Gurion University are women. The center, which is a joint initiative of BGU President Prof. Rivka Carmi and the Arnow family of the United States, will serve to assist Bedouin women in a number of areas, including helping students to better speak, read and write in Hebrew as well as providing academic guidance and professional support.
Many Bedouin students are young, relative to other Israeli university students, and they are experiencing independence for the first time, having arrived immediately after high school. The students also face additional cultural pressures with close scrutiny from Bedouin society and are reluctant to ask for help.
The new center will offer the women empowerment workshops, women’s health lectures, social activities and more. It will also allow students a place to rest between classes and to wait for rides home. A social worker from the staff of the Office of the Dean of Students will serve as an older guiding and supportive figure at the center.
“We noticed that women Bedouin students were often to be found sitting in the lobby of the student center early in the morning, and during the day, we saw them hanging out on the grass with nothing to do. There have been several attempts to create interest groups specifically for them – an all-women’s sports lesson, a support group, a handcraft workshop. The attempts did not succeed, primarily because of lack of participation [and] because of a lack of trust in the system,” said Merav Yosef Solomon, head of administration in the Office of the Dean of Students.
Solomon added that conversations with the first female Bedouin clinical psychologist, Dr. Sarah Abu-Kaf, who is also a BGU faculty member, were instrumental in establishing the new center and creating a “space where Bedouin women can feel safe, where they can rest and hang out.”
Taking part in the dedication of the new center last week were BGU president; Josh Arnow , representative of the Arnow family; Prof. Zvi HaCohen, rector; Vice-President for External Affairs Prof. Steve Rosen; Dean of Students Prof. Moshe Kaspi, and student representative Eman Abu Aiada.
By: Anav Silverman/TPS
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