The Eshet Chayil (“woman of valor”) program was developed by JDC-Israel in the 1990s to help Ethiopian-Israeli women integrate into the labor market and ensure they remained there. The program follows the approach that integration into working life is achieved by a gradual, supervised entry into employment. In light of the program’s success with the Ethiopian-Israeli women, and since some of its components could be adapted to a range of target populations, the TEVET employment initiative decided to adjust the model and implement it for women and men in other populations (immigrants from the Caucasus and Bukhara, non-immigrant Jews, and Arabs).
In 2006, Eshet Chayil and Avihayil (the equivalent program for men) were implemented for Arab women and men in Umm-al-Fahm, Haifa, Kafar Kanna and Reine. Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute was asked to evaluate the program. To collect the data, 139 participants were interviewed in the first round of interviews, six months after they joined the program, and 119 were interviewed in the second round, 1.5 years after they joined. In addition, interviews were held with 22 staff members involved in the program.
During the 18 months after enrolling in the program, about half of the program participants (51%) were placed in at least one job. At the end of that 18-month period, 29% of the participants (27% of the women and 33% of the men) were employed in jobs obtained for them through the program. Although these rates are somewhat lower than the rates for similar programs in the Jewish sector, given the special difficulties integrating members of the Arab population into employment and compared to other efforts in this area, these outcomes are considered a reasonable success.
The findings provided the program directors and implementers with feedback about the implementation, the outputs of the various stages, the employment status of participants, and the views of participants and staff on the program’s contribution to their integration into employment. The feedback played an important part in introducing changes to the program structure and its adaptation to the Arab population – e.g., increased support and training for the national and local coordinators; addition of courses and training for participants, with adaptations to meet their needs, etc.
In light of the findings showing the model had been successful among different populations, the Ministry of Social Affairs has decided to adopt the program. It is currently implemented by the Ministry, with help from TEVET, in some 30 localities throughout Israel, and there are plans to expand the number of localities in the coming year. The program is implemented in the Arab localities in partnership with the Authority for the Economic Development of the Arab, Druze and Circassian Sectors at the Prime Minister’s Office.