Last Thursday, WIZO leadership, at a meeting of the executive committee, celebrated three WIZO women who, on International Women's Day 2016, had received recognition from the Israeli Knesset's Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, under the leadership of MK Aida Touma-Suleiman, for their individual achievements in advancing the status of women in Israel. Two of the inspiring women are graduates of WIZO's Women's Leadership Program. After a ceremony at the Knesset honoring the women, which was attended by top WIZO leaders, Prof. Rivka Lazovsky, Chairperson of World WIZO, specially invited the women innovators to the executive meeting in order to show appreciation for their work and expose all of the WIZO administration to their touching stories and important contributions.
Michal Barkai-Brody, Esq. founded a first-of-its-kind initiative in Israel, "Alma Derech-Eretz," a pre-military educational program for young women from Israel's periphery and lower socio-economic strata, aimed at empowering them and preparing them for future leadership positions, during and after their mandatory army service. She participated in the first year of WIZO's Women's Leadership Program (2012-2013) and in 2013 marked the first year of her own initiatives operation, in Ofakim, Israel. In regards to her experience with WIZO, she said, "We are all a part of women's organization that is changing reality, fulfilling women's dreams and even giving them the opportunity to dream! I am honored to be a part of WIZO. WIZO allowed me to believe that anything is possible, and that I could alter the future of girls who had not been given the opportunity to succeed. All the graduates of the pre-military program I started became officers, commanders and soldiers with significant roles. WIZO opened the door for them."
Racheli Mangoli is a recognized star within the ranks of WIZO, thanks to the wonders she has achieved as the head of the WIZO Community Center in Pardes Katz, one of the toughest and weakest neighborhoods in Israel. Racheli developed an after-school study group program for local Ethiopian children into a wide array of programs that enhance the lives of children and adults, which have garnered partnerships and funding from major Israeli corporations and volunteers from across the country."I truly thank WIZO for the opportunity I was given: to be the head of a local branch," said Racheli, at the event. "I had no idea of my own capabilities until I was chosen for the job. Now I am able to move mountains - thanks to what I learned through WIZO. I've succeeded in attracting numerous volunteers who work with great dedication in order to help the Ethiopian community's children. Thanks to WIZO, these kids see the beautiful side of Israeli society." Esther Mor, President of World WIZO, added, "When I visited Racheli's branch I saw a young boy with torn shoes. Later on, I was told that his parents had cut open the front of the shoes in order to save money on buying a new pair. I made sure that the children at the center all received a donation of new shoes."
After being abandoned by her own husband at age 24, with three children, and left as an outcast in the Ultra-Orthodox community, Fainy Sukenik began the religious divorce process, renowned in Israel for its complexity and problematic approach to women. Simultaneously, she began participating in WIZO's Women's Leadership Program in 2013-2014 and established "Ba'asher Telchi," a non-profit organization that has already provided support for religious Jewish women in the process of divorce, including pro-bono legal advice, moral support, loans and scholarships, education and more.
At the WIZO executive meeting celebrating these three role-models, all of the women from various levels and divisions of WIZO listened with pride as each WIZO-connected social activist told her story and showed the admiration and pride with their own anecdotes and words of support and congratulations. Gila Oshrat, Chairperson of WIZO Israel, said, "The empowerment that WIZO provides for women and the tools it provides them with as part of the leadership program build women who change the makeup of Israeli society. It warms the heart to see the results of our work. I hope that all of these women continue their work with belief, dedication and kindness."
Prof. Rivka Lazovsky, Chairperson of World WIZO, remarked, "These women's stories are a perfect example of WIZO's work, which affects Israeli society directly, through its hundreds of projects across the country, as well as indirectly, thanks to women leaders who develop social initiatives with WIZO's help. It gives me great pride to meet these women. It's for these moments that WIZO chaverot work so hard, in Israel and abroad. We are ourselves empowered when we empower others. We will surely continue this important labor."