About Step Forward:
Establishment of Step Forward
for the Promotion of Education in Rahat
Step Forward was
founded in 2000 by a group of young educators motivated to change the existing
social, economic, and educational status of the local community. They strive to
empower the Israeli Bedouin population in the city of Rahat and improve its
social and economic status by providing better educational opportunities for
children and youth, economic independence to Bedouin women, and
community-ownership to the entire population in Rahat. This bright and dynamic
group of young people who united to initiate Step Forward built a board of
directors including 11 members, 5 of whom are women, most of whom are teachers
and students in their seventh year of donating their time volunteering for the
organization. Each year, talented youth from within the community join Step
Forward to contribute to projects on different levels.
Statistical Background: the
City of Rahat
Rahat is the largest
Bedouin settlement in Israel and is located in the Negev Desert, the southern
region of Israel. Rahat was founded in 1972 as one of seven cities newly
established as part of the Israeli governmentís strategic plan to encourage
Israeli Bedouins citizens to abandon their nomadic traditional lifestyle in
favor of settled living. However, the government did not provide sufficient
assistance and support during the transition, raising many issues within the
community and creating unanticipated needs that remain unmet by the Israeli
government. Today 40,000 residents live in these cities, and a total of 160,000
Israeli Bedouin live in communities throughout the Negev Desert making up 30% of
the regionís population.
Rahatís community of
38,000 Bedouin is among Israelís most underserved constituencies today. The
Bedouin population in Rahat is the poorest in the country holding Israelís
highest birth rate and facing daunting social and economic challenges. Over 50%
of Rahatís families and 60% of Rahat's youth live under the national poverty
line. Many students drop out of school between ages 6-12, high school
matriculation rates are low, and only 2% of Rahatís residents have advanced
degrees. Over 70% of Bedouin families receive welfare assistance, and
unemployment rates are over 50%-- reaching 98% among women. Over 80% of women in
the community are illiterate. The lack of regional industry decreases job
availability throughout the region, and the sharp transition from nomadic to
settled living caused many traditional Bedouin jobs to be lost.
Because of the heavy
economic burden, the community of Rahat cannot address the basic needs of its
children and youth, including education, recreation, and extracurricular
activities. Basic needs such as food and clothing must be satisfied first.
There have been few
developments in the education sector, especially relating to womenís education.
The weak education system does not have frameworks to allow operation of
informal educational networks. There is no municipal or neighborhood library
serving the community.