Advancing Israel’s Bedouin Community
In the constellation of Israel’s disempowered communities, the place of the Bedouin community of the Negev at the bottom of the ladder is unchallenged. More than 66% of Negev Bedouin live below the poverty line and close to half are unemployed with little access to sources of income. The vast majority has had to abandon a traditional nomadic lifestyle for impoverished townships, and thousands live in unrecognized villages that lack even basic services such as electricity and running water.
As one of only five female Bedouin lawyers in Israel, Rawia Aburabia has a key role to play in helping her community. In 2009, she joined the Arab Minority Rights Department of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Israel’s leading civil and human rights organization.
Rawia is 30, but her list of accomplishments would make her extraordinary at any age. Prior to joining ACRI, Rawia advocated for the individual and collective rights of Bedouin, particularly Bedouin women, in various government ministries, as well as through civil rights organizations such as Yedid. As an NIF Law Fellow, she interned with Human Rights Watch where she developed an advocacy strategy for Israel’s unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev. Rawia is an active member of the international board of the Abraham Fund Initiatives, the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, and the Van Leer Institute Women's Working Group. She holds bachelor’s degrees in law and social work and an LL.M. from American University, and is Israel's premier expert on polygamy in Negev Bedouin society, having completed her master's thesis on the issue.
Rawia’s overarching personal mission is to foster a world where her own achievements as a Bedouin are not unique. "I want to be beyond being 'first'. It should just be that we have hundreds of physicians, lawyers-that that's the normal place to be. That's what I hope to achieve."