2011 Women's Health Hero: Women and Their Bodies, an Israeli and Palestinian Collaboration

By Christine Cupaiuolo — September 7, 2011

As part of its 40th anniversary celebrationOur Bodies Ourselves is honoring its global partners who have adapted the “Our Bodies, Ourselves” book for their own communities. Learn more.

by Paula Doress-Worters

In 2011, Women and Their Bodies — a collaboration of Israeli and Palestinian women — will publish Arabic and Hebrew resources based on “Our Bodies, Ourselves.” By doing so, they will make an important social and political statement, challenge the status quo, and further their message of collaboration.

As a first generation Jewish-American woman growing up in the safety of Boston, but sharply aware of my parents anxiety for family left behind in Europe, I feel a cultural-spiritual connection with the land and the peoples of Israel. I am also passionate about finding paths to peace, whether in women’s health, environmental science, or the arts, and I am enthusiastic about Women and Their Bodies setting an example for us to follow.

I anticipate our 40th anniversary celebration with great excitement. Among OBOS’s global partners attending the event will be Dana Weinberg, the founder of Women and Their Bodies, and Raghda Alnabilsy, a certified sex educator who coordinates the organization’s outreach to Arab populations in Israel.

The Israeli-Palestinian project has been close to my heart for many reasons. As a founding co-author of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” in the United States, I appreciate and support women coming together across differences to gain greater control over their lives and bring that knowledge to their countrywomen.

This “coming together” is a hallmark of WTB. The group, which was founded in 2005, has brought together more than 300 volunteers from different professions — physicians, psychologists, gynecologists, midwives, sexologists, gender and social studies researchers — to develop and share information and language on health, sexuality and rights with Jewish and Arab communities (read more about the project).

Women and Their Bodies
The “Our Bodies, Ourselves” project team at Women and Their Bodies

Together, they are a powerful symbol of co-existence, not only respecting ethnic, political and religious difference but bringing them together towards shared goals.

Arabic and Hebrew women’s health resources are already in use in the community via workshops, trainings, advocacy efforts and other capacity-building initiatives run by Women and Their Bodies. A tri-lingual women’s health website will also increase online access. The information provided will be vital to those seeking honest, accurate information through anonymous channels. These important resources will reach women and girls in Muslim and Christian Arab, Bedouin Arab, and Jewish Israeli communities, and help increase knowledge, leadership and activism in the region.

In 2007, Dana won national recognition for her work. Israel Venture Network’s Social Entrepreneur Fellowship Program, an affiliate of The New Israel Fund, awarded her one of its two fellowships for 2007-2009. In its awards announcement, the Network described WTB as “a unique multicultural, multi-professional non-profit organization of women in Israel, Jewish, Arab and Palestinian, who have made it their mission to work towards empowering women to become self-health advocates who can protect and promote their own health.”

Dana expressed her delight at news of the award, exclaiming: “This is so meaningful for me and my partners in this project because [of] it’s recognition of the importance of our vision and goals; and it means practical assistance through mentoring and funding which will enable us to run this important initiative in an optimal way to add to its success.”

That same year, on my second trip to Israel, I was honored to be warmly welcomed to a gathering at Dana’s home, with delicious food and enthusiastic introductions all around. When we shared our experiences of writing and reaching out to women in our respective communities, I was deeply impressed with the commitment of the WTB women, most of them health professionals and many working mothers as well, who regularly give so much of their time, creativity, and skill to make vital health information available to women and girls in their country.

If you are attending OBOS’s anniversary symposium, you will have a similar opportunity – to meet Dana and Raghda, listen to their extraordinary journeys, and become involved in a pioneering peace-building effort to raise the status of women and girls in the Middle East.

Dr. Paula Doress-Worters is a founding co-author of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” and contributor to subsequent editions for over three decades. Currently, she is a resident scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University where she chairs a Women’s History Symposium, the most recent featuring women’s leadership toward co-existence.

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