ACHOTI – FOR WOMEN IN ISRAEL
“Achoti – For Women in Israel” is a Mizrahi feminist movement, established in 2000, which works to create a feminist multiethnic and multinational home for women, and to advance economic, social and cultural justice in Israel.
Achoti [“sister” in Hebrew] seeks to challenge the hegemonic Ashkenazi discourse in the feminist field, to broaden feminist discourse and to formulate an alternative feminist agenda. Among other things, Achoti explores the intersections of identity, nationality, ethnicity and feminism, challenges dichotomies and distinctions (such as between givers and receivers of services, the knowledgeable and those lacking knowledge, etc.), advances the visibility of marginalized transparent women from various origins and backgrounds (Mizrahi, Palestinian, Ethiopian, Russian-speaking, migrant workers, refugees and more), and insists of placing socio-economic justice high on the feminist agenda, understanding that it is essential to creating a just and equal society for all. Achoti strives to make feminist language and practices accessible to communities of women from the geographical-political-economical-social periphery in Israel, thus expanding the feminist movement and making it more multi-vocal.
As one of the main organizations leading the Mizrahi struggle in Israel, Achoti focuses especially on including Mizrahi women in the struggle and making their voices, stories, and activities heard in the public spheres.
Achoti is a grassroots movement combining different strategies of action – offering support to individuals and groups, raising awareness among different audiences, advocating with decision-makers, and developing and implementing innovative models of grassroots work. Seeking to create an ever-growing solidarity network, Achoti participates in coalitions of civil society organizations and strives to create broad partnerships among communities, organizations and individuals.
To advance its vision, Achoti works in several ways:
* Creating socioeconomic alternatives for women from marginalized communities and advancing a new socioeconomic discourse:
Among Achoti’s activities to achieve these aims include, among others, supporting Ehete (“sister” in Amharic), a center of occupation and culture for women of Ethiopian origin, located in the southern development town of Kiryat Gat; running a fair trade shop to market products created by women from Israel’s peripheries; and participating in the “partners” coalition, a coalition of women’s organizations advocating to advance equality and justice for women in all spheres of life.
* Advancing distributive justice in culture and education:
To name but a few of Achoti’s activities in this context:
Beit Achoti (Achoti’s home) – which is located in the impoverished South of Tel Aviv, an area which is home to large Mizrahi as well as migrant and refugee communities – is not only the movement’s office and a meeting place for activists but also a cultural and community center holding lectures, workshops, exhibitions and more, thus offering a space in which the silenced voices of women from Israel’s peripheries can be heard.
In addition, Achoti is one of the initiators and leaders of “Libi Bamizrach” (my heart is in the east) – a coalition of organizations working for equitable distribution of cultural resources in Israel.
* Combating discrimination, racism and sexism:
Achoti conducts this struggle through various activities, including the “Black on White” project documenting and analyzing, from a multiethnic and multinational feminist perspective, expressions and incidences of racism in the Israeli educational system, civil society, and media; “Return to the Future” project, seeking to create a dialogue between Jewish and Arab women from different marginalized communities; combating police violence against minorities in Israel; “Power to the Community,” bringing together veteran residents and refugees from South Tel Aviv for a joint struggle for their neighborhood and “Discovering the Boundaries of Memory – Diverse Women Creating a Language of Peace,” which seeks to document and present to the general public the voices of Arab and Jewish, Mizrahi and Ashkenazi Israeli women. Women participants engaged in a process of self-exploration and creative writing, examining and writing texts about cultural, national, gender and personal topics. Texts were published, in Hebrew and Arabic, in the “Peace Lexicon of Women from Israel.”
* Advancing social justice in housing and welfare:
Achoti supports the grassroots group “Lo Nechmadot – Lo Nechmadim” (the Not-Nice Women and Men), in their struggle to advance public housing and eradicate poverty in Israel.www.achoti.com