Foreign Policy Blogs

Women’s Rights Through An Artistic Lens

Artists4Israel

Source: Artists4Israel

Rights American and other Western women enjoy are still hopes for women throughout the world. While Western women undoubtedly still struggle for things like job and pay equality, the ability to acquire an education and work are fundamental rights that, among others, are liberties women throughout the world do not yet enjoy.

Saudi Arabia is a common example of a country in which women’s rights are lacking, but there are others. Activists continue to work towards global equality for women; however, the list of restrictions women face is long. It includes:

  • Women are not allowed to vote in Vatican City
  • Women cannot leave the house without a husband’s permission in Yemen
  • Rape victims can be charged with crimes in Morocco

While groups like Amnesty International work to bring attention to issues concerning women’s rights and secure equality, other grassroots groups are exploring unique ways to express opinions and raise awareness.

The struggle for equal rights is not limited to countries where laws restricting women exist. Rather, democratic countries continue to struggle with the implementation and perception of various degrees of equality. Israel is a democratic nation.  According to the Israeli Declaration of Independence, Israel will, “ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.” Although the principle of gender equality is imbedded in the country’s Declaration of Independence and the country’s 1951 Women’s Equal Rights Law, which states, “all female members of Israel have a right to equality in employment, education, health, environmental quality, and social welfare,” women’s rights have evolved from words to action throughout Israel’s short history.  In 1969, Golda Meir became Israeli prime minister. This was the third time in history that a country elected a female prime minister. Gender equality grew with the passing of the 1988 Equal Opportunity in Employment Law and the 1996 Equal Pay Law, and in 2013, 27 women were elected to the Knesset, Israel’s legislative body.

Now, in 2014, Esther’s Daughters, a group of female graffiti artists from different ethnic backgrounds, have undertaken a project in Israel to assess and strengthen women’s rights. This delegation is one of my undertakings by Artists 4 Israel, an organization that empowers artists to express their support for the artistic and cultural freedoms of Israel.

All are women, but only one is Jewish. With different experiences strengthening their commitment to women’s rights, they are working with diverse groups in Israel, including the country’s first black Miss Israel, to celebrate the country’s successes while simultaneously identifying areas for growth. The delegation’s itinerary also includes meeting with Minister Limor Livnat, the Chair of the Committee on the Status of Women and speaking to vulnerable young women at a youth village. Their artistic work will line the walls of a children’s center in one of the country’s poorest and most religiously and ethnically mixed cities. Additionally, the group will turn a former Jordanian army base into an art gallery.

Although the artistic endeavors of Esther’s Daughters may seem minimal considering Israel’s longstanding efforts to achieve gender equality for its female population, the grassroots efforts underscore a larger movement of working in unique ways to bring attention to both achievements and struggles to achieve in the realm of women’s rights.

 

Author

Allison Kushner
Allison Kushner

Allison Kushner received three undergraduate degrees from Boston University and a Master's degree in Middle Eastern Security and Diplomacy Studies from Tel Aviv University. She has spent time living and traveling throughout Europe, the Middle East, and China. A former political speechwriter, Allison has taught college level Political Science and International Relations in the U.S. and China. She continues to be engaged in public speaking activities at home and abroad.

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