Ladies, your country needs you/Orna Ophir (Translated from Ma'ariv daily Newspaper, Nov 2002).
So writes Leora Bilsky in her article titled "Violence of the mute", which appears in her recently published book "The voice and the look" (Resling publishing), and demonstrates with a rape victim's court testimony how the voice of women is silenced by men and empowered by other women: "Seeing as women in western culture are identified with a voice, we would expect to find a variety of voices in the public debate, but paradoxically precisely those who are identified with a voice, their voice is missing from the public sphere".
How can women strengthen themselves, empower others and influence those whose voice is not heard? The answer is by community involvement.
Ifat Ovitz-Lahavy, a 27 year old lawyer from Tel Aviv took part in a women's leadership course hoping to make a difference: "I volunteered in the Israel Women's Network and found myself surrounded by successful women with a lot of motivation. I am acquiring tools with which I will be able to influence my near surroundings: friends and work colleagues in the legal field, and hope that in the future, with the help of my legal knowledge, I will bring about judgments and precedents marking a broad shift in society". The IWN acts to widen the circle of women who are aware of the need for change and are willing to be active in the periphery and groups with special needs. IWN hopes to arouse the awareness of women's power also in the populations where feminist awareness is undeveloped, in the belief that a large number of women can take part in different levels of government--from neighborhood committees through local councils to the Knesset and government.
Women do not have to be "manly" in order to become leaders. From meetings of the networks' activities with women from varied sectors of the population it becomes apparent that women's views, much like their natural working methods, are different than those of men. Women tend to look for a consensus, avoid confrontations, cooperate and work with no particular hierarchy. Such traits are in no way inferior in their efficiency to those of male leaders.
IWN's leadership courses are aimed at empowering women. Hiki Haviv, Director of leadership development programs at the Israel Women's Network, explains: "Empowerment is a process in which one person strengthens another person while not detracting from their own strength and maybe even increasing it".
The coming year's courses initiated by the IWN are characterized by broad and varied activities aimed at advancing women's leadership. IWN has established and is continuing to establish leadership courses around the country--Tiberias, Kfar Tavor, Kiryat Gat and Eilat, a course in the center of the country and a number of courses in the Arab sector.
The young leadership courses, run throughout the country, are intended for women between the ages of 25-40 who want to bring about social and personal change. The course is 3 months long, and combines theoretical studies with practical workshops to help the women exercise their skills.