Project for the Advancement of Women’s Health in Israel (ISHA) Evaluation of the Program to Develop Women’s Lay Leadership — Summary Report

The ISHA project was developed jointly by the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland, the Jewish Agency for Israel, and the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute, with the aim of promoting women’s health in Israel. The unique, multifaceted project, which was initiated in 2001, includes the development of a new program to foster women’s lay leadership in the community. The goal was to train women to become active in their communities in the promotion of women’s health. To achieve this goal, participants took part in a training course to provide them with information about women’s health and the tools to develop and implement projects in the community. The program was implemented in two cycles and a total of 28 groups of women (approximately 500 women) underwent the training and became active in their communities in localities all over the country, with most of the groups (25) trained by the Israel Association of Community Centers (IACC) and several (3) trained by the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Center for Women’s Health Studies and Promotion. The IACC also provided vital infrastructure for ongoing activity of the lay leaders in the community. The program was implemented in a broad range of communities from the north to the south and served the various major cultural groups including native Israelis, immigrants, Arabs, and Bedouins and different socioeconomic levels.

The Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute conducted an evaluation of the program between 2001 and 2005. The report presents the main findings in respect to the training (e.g., satisfaction with the training, knowledge of women’s health, motivation to work in the community, and perceived self-efficacy) and the participants’ activities in the community to promote women’s health. The multiyear monitoring of the program made it possible to identify which of the many principles mentioned in the literature were particularly important for this program’s success. These included creating an organizational structure for implementing programs, developing a training structure that combined academic study with mentored practical experience, paying special attention to cultural appropriateness, and structuring a mechanism to support the women in their ongoing activities in the community. The report also sets out the factors that hindered implementation of the project.

The evaluation is currently providing a basis for the implementation of additional projects to develop women’s leadership based on the model of the community health activists. Indeed, in recent years the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland and the Jewish Agency for Israel, along with additional Jewish Federations, have supported a variety of similar programs in the community centers.

In addition, the principles brought up in the evaluation of the program are likely to be beneficial and to serve as guidelines for the planning and implementation of a wide range of similar types of lay leadership development programs in health or other areas.

This report is part of the Project for the Advancement of Women’s Health in Israel (ISHA) and was funded by the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland and the Jewish Agency for Israel.