Becoming a Woman
in a New Land
Empowering Young Ethiopian Girls
Ruth Bitton Midwife,RN,BA
Western Galilee Hospital, Nahariya, Israel
The Ethiopian population in Israel
Ethiopian Jews in Israel: 130,000
Percentage of the General Population :1.75%
Languages: Hebrew , Amharic , Tigriniya
Demographics: Central 39.6 %, South25%, Haifa
18.8% , Jerusalem 6.1%
Largest population: Netanya
38% of Ethiopian women, ages 25 - 54 are in the
labor market, 68% of other Israeli women of
the same age group.
62% of Ethiopian families have no income.
72% of Ethiopian children live in households
below the poverty line
*Israeli association for Ethiopian Jews
Two major waves of Ethiopian
“Operation Moses" (1984)
“Operation Solomon" (1991)
The long journey from Ethiopia to Israel is one of
physical hardship but also social, economic
and cultural hardships.
Preserving and letting go
Bridging the gap between the rural life in
Ethiopia and the modern western culture in
Israel is a major challenge for Ethiopian
Becoming a woman is an important
stepping stone in every young
girl's life.
For young Ethiopian girls in the
midst of cultural confusion the
challenge is even greater.
Key factors such as body image, self
esteem, sexual integrity and social
integration can become
jeopardized by cultural insecurity
Becoming the Woman I Can Be
The Program
10-20 girls between 11-1
3-4 meetings
3 hours each meeting
Creating a learning experience focused on
Empowering young Ethiopian girls as they
approach womanhood.
Offering knowledge
Enabling expression of thoughts in a supportive
and safe atmosphere
Honoring the unique characteristics of the rich
Ethiopian culture
The First Meeting
Getting to know ourselves
My Body
Exploring body image through life size body murals
.Done in small groups this a chance to mingle and
get to know one and other in a relaxed
atmosphere .The murals enable participation
without a language barrier and are accompanied
by an abundance of color and excitement
The Murals
Common characteristics
A holistic approach
The "spirit" is often depicted throughout the
body resembling a cloud.
Visual depictions of feelings, fear, love,etc
Ethiopian artist Mickaël Bethe-Selassie
Internal body perceptions of Ethiopian
Jews who emigrated to Israel
Western Journal of Nursing 1995.
*Ethiopian children reported fewer body organs
than did Western children.
*Ethiopian children and adults, did not think
about the body in terms of biophysical
*They perceived the body as a holistic system
*A divine providence is responsible for body
organs working together harmoniously
Our bodies
Menstrual cycle
The Second Meeting
A woman’s Gift
Bearing life
The Miracle of life
The Secrets We Keep
Exploring the sensitive subject of issues we hide,
taboos, fears and secrets.
Setting a stage on which the girls feel they can
share issues that threaten
or potentially threaten their wellbeing.
Defining Trust
What is trust?
Identifying someone we can confide in
Honoring our feelings.
Developing emotional safety is
a key issue during this part of
the program.
My soul mates
Each girl shares with the group who her soul mate is.
Most girls choose to name their mother.
I encourage them to find an additional soul mate,
not a close family member.
This is of utmost
importance due to
emotional vulnerability and
even the possibility of abuse
in the family.
Asserting our rights
Saying Yes
Saying No
The Third MeetingThe stories we share
Sharing experiences and memories.
Stories from Ethiopia are welcomed with pride
and often the classroom becomes a stage for
wonderful dancing and song
Role modeling
Sharing my own personal experience as a young
girl coming to Israel and how I chose the path
of becoming a nurse and later a midwife.
Shifra and
The Hebrew midwives
an example of courage
Most Ethiopian Jews are observant and
reference to the bible is very meaningful.
Developing Confidence
We discuss our dreams, who we are and
want to become.
The girls compliment each other on their special
attributes, give praise to each other.
They share their dreams and offer suggestions for
success and fulfillment.
My Gift
A beautiful collection
of pictures , poems
and words of
appreciation written
and presented to me
by the girls from the
first program,
Maalot 2010
Pics from booklet •
This is a program of the heart. As it develops I am
aware of the need to expand. With this
understanding this year the program was offered
to a neighboring community. In the future I
would like to see such programs integrated into
the school curriculum. It is my belief that efforts
that focus on empowering girls as they become
young woman are a welcome and worthwhile
social investment.
Pnina Tamnu Shato
Knesset Member 2013
Hagit Yassu Winner Israeli “Idol” 2011
Dr Adis Malda Mitsri First Ethiopian female
Doctor In Israel
Yityish “Titi” Aynaw ISRAELI BEAUTY QUEEN 2013

Becoming a Woman in a New Land