World Jewish Relief have launched a trailblazing initiative to “prioritise women and girls” across its work with an event at JW3 to hear from Rwandan, Ukrainian and Syrian women.
The charity, which is currently fundraising for its Indonesia appeal and works in some of the world’s poorest areas, held its inaugural Women and World Jewish Relief event to promote its new push.
Across the globe, women and girls are disproportionately more likely than men and boys to be in poverty, and the speakers explained how they hoped their own daughters would not have to face the problems of this generation.
Kafa, who fled Syria with her family, said: “All my life I dreamt of coming to Britain, but as a tourist, not a refugee.” Despite her university qualification and degree-level English, she found she could not work in the UK, so WJR has helped her get the necessary British qualifications.
In Rwanda, Valentine survived genocide and now spends her days helping children living on the streets, where she is known as “mother”. WJR supports her efforts to help these children into employment.
Viktoria, from the Ukrainian city of Kharkov, said: “Our Jewish women have been through a lot and they’ve lost a lot. It’s painful to see how difficult their older age is. The things we do for these women make their lives better. They are an integral part of our Jewish family and we must look after them.”
She spoke movingly about how her grandfather saved the family from the Nazis, but how they later survived only by hiding their faith. It was only aged 30 that Viktoria discovered that she was Jewish and now dedicates her life to the community.
In one of several supportive messages, the Laviot network for queer Jewish women said: “Women face violence, discrimination, injustice and inequality every day around the world. It was a privilege to hear from three amazing women who fight for, and provide the rights and safety of, other women.”
WJR chief executive Paul Anticoni said: “Women have less access to land, education, income, decision-making, political influence and opportunity – all of which keeps them in a cycle of poverty – we want to change that.”
In Eastern Europe, women make up a large proportion of those the charity helps, in part because the Soviet Union lost over 20 million citizens during World War Two, the majority of whom were men.
“Their sisters and widows now make up 80 percent of our social isolation, home repairs and homecare programmes for the elderly,” he said. “These dignified, courageous and hard-working women have endured so much and need our support.”
The London-based charity supported more than 56,000 women and girls last year, across 20 countries, providing home repairs, health and welfare services such as homecare and eyesight tests, and help finding employment.
It also provides humanitarian aid to countries hit by tragedy, such as Indonesia, where it is working with a trusted local partner in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake and tsunami.
Anticoni said: “As well as the immediate impact, these women and girls are also vulnerable to increased rates of sexual and domestic violence. Women are left to care for those affected which increases their workload and emotional burden.”