With COVID-19 imposed lock-downs in Israel, like in the rest of the world, violence against women significantly increased, and addressing increased needs for the assistance of women victims of GBV proved challenging for local organisations. Thanks to the Euro-Mediterranean Foundation Of Support To Human Rights Defenders (EMHRF) core support funded by ProtectDefenders.eu, this organisation purchased new phones for volunteers to handle an increased number of calls for assistance and helped secure accommodation for 18 battered women in April and May alone, when they would usually help 10 in a whole year. It also assisted 25 women, who were not eligible for welfare or governmental benefits, to avoid eviction and provided more than 300 food packages to families headed by single mothers.
We have led the way on demonstrations to protest government policy or lack thereof. At the beginning of the first lock-down, we organised, together with several other women’s and social justice groups, a virtual demonstration. It was the first such demonstration in the Arab community, and over 100,000 people joined in our call to stop the gender-based killing. A coalition of organisations against violence has grown out of this action. We also helped organise a mass physical demonstration, and I was the main speaker in this well-attended and important protest. This effort was a wonderful example of a community coming together to assist one another.” – Organisation representative
Beyond this tangible assistance, the organisation seized the opportunity to ask the government to act quickly on reforms long called for by the movement, by organising online and street protest actions, addressing a policy paper on improving emergency welfare services to the Knesset, and advising the police on coordinating responses to domestic violence and handling victims.
The organisation is working closely with several other women’s and social justice groups and EMHRF is assisting the organisation in exploring additional means of support to sustain its essential work at local level.
Many local organisations recorded an increase of over 200% in victims of GBV since the first lockdown, compared to the same period last year. Nearly two dozen women were murdered in Israel this year, compared to 17 last year.
This and other highlights of our work are included in our Annual Report.