Bakehila - Leading Social Change

Bakehila is a non-profit organization whose goal is to break the cycle of poverty, advance equal opportunity and social mobility among children and youth from disadvantaged neighborhoods in Jerusalem, while simultaneously fostering the next generation of social leaders.

Location: Jerusalem , NA
Year founded: 2002


Bakehila is all about empowering communities, and breaking the cycle of poverty for the families and children in the community, via educational intervention. We believe that offering equal opportunity for the future of children and youth at risk will change their lives for the better, and will eventually lead them to break our of poverty.

Bakehila's vision is a commuity that can continue its social change in an independent way, while using the tools and attitude acquired by working with Bakehila.We work in a hollistic manner with the participants, families and larger community authorities in order to impact broad-based social change.

Girls' Empowerment Program


Bakehila is offering a special enrichment program to address the unique need among young Jewish girls from inner-city neighborhoods in Jerusalem, who are steadily making less and less progress both academically and socially. According to research, this phenomenon called "Girls' Silence", as coined by researcher Dr. Allyson Jule, impacts girls across all divides of society in co-education schools, reducing the girls' will and ability to speak out in class and participate at the same level as boys, and prevents them from taking an active part in extra-curricular or social activities where boys are included. The phenomenon is shown to be especially prevalent within disadvantaged communities, where struggling with day-to-day psychological poverty leaves less room for awareness and resources in order to address this sensitive topic.

Bakehila's Girls' Empowerment program was opened in 2015 for its pilot year in the Talpiot community and is geared towards young Jewish girls from the age of 10 until age 14 (6th to 8th grade). The project, which focuses on building the girls' confidence, knowledge and self-expression, serves to influence in both the classroom dynamic and in social and personal areas.

The Girls Empowerment group in Talpiot is currently in partnership with the following organizations within the local community:The Chantal KareiFund, the Baka Community Center, and El Halev. For the 2016-2017 academic year, we have already discussed continued partnership with these agencies and are currently seeking additional funding opportunities. We believe that we can secure funding from these partners to cover roughly 50% of the program costs.

Please watch this video about the Girls Empowerment program, here.

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What is the mission and purpose of this program?

The project aims to impact the present and future of the Jewish community's young girls in three ways:

1. Confidence: To affect positive change and academic engagement in the classroom, by increasing the confidence of young Jewish girls in the school setting thus encouraging them to meet their full academic potential.

2. Identity: To allow each girl to create and develop her personal identity via exploration of personality and choice, while also forming meaningful bonds between young Jewish girls within their own community.

3. Enrichment: To enrich the participants' knowledge and awareness of strong Jewish females throughout history in order to inspire and enhance the girls' perception of their role as Jewish women within society.

4. Community: To encourage and develop girls to contribute to and strengthen their communities.

The Girls' Empowerment program is a weekly workshop that focuses on empowerment of young Jewish girls through confidence building, identity workshops and knowledge enrichment in order to encourage participants' engagement in all areas of life. Creative workshops, special events and lectures allow the program's messages to be an enjoyable experience, while touching on the emotional and cognitive psyche of the girls.

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Program Description

The Girls Empowerment program will impact the empowerment of young Jewish girls via the following activities:

1. Confidence: Creating a secure circle for participants to discuss issues and sensitivities in weekly intimate group sessions together with a group counselor, providing participants with confidence-building support and promoting academic engagement in school.

2. Identity: Participating in weekly workshops with other young Jewish girls of the same age and mentality, using creative means and activities to allow for exploration and development of each girls' personal identity. Workshops such as self-defense and makeup therapy focus on enhancing positive body image and self-defense for the girls in order to increase their self-confidence and independence.

3. Enrichment: Enriching the girls' knowledge and perception of the strength and influence of women throughout history and as a whole, while emphasizing empowerment in the Jewish world of women. Enrichment workshops include fun activities such as a life size Monopoly game starring strong female leaders and Jewish change-makers in the last century, and analyzing messages from feminist and non-feminist movies and media.

4. Community: Impacting the Bakehila Jewish community of each area through the empowerment and contribution of its young Jewish girls. Each group will inspire and execute a project that drives significant change in the community, generally geared towards issues related to women empowerment in the community.

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Demonstrated Need

Beginning at the tender age of 7, there begins a phenomenon called Girls' Silence whereby the voice of girls starts to noticeably disappear from classroom interaction where boys are present. This event is responsible for the lack of academic engagement in the classroom by the female gender, but also impacts the involvement of girls in extra-curricular activities, in social areas, and possibly within personal boundaries as well. In fact,according to a 10-month study, boys are 9 times more likely to speak up in the classroom and are encouraged to do as such(Jule, 2003).

"Language is central to learning. If girls speak less will they learn less?”, asks Dr Allyson Jule in her book "Sh-Shushing the Girls", 2003.

Moreover, research shows that boys and girls still hold stereotypical views about gendered job roles, and while girls out-perform boys throughout their education and are more likely to progress to higher education, they do not maintain this advantage when it comes to long-term career status and pay (Ofsted, 2011).

On the other hand, it has been continually emphasized in our day and age, that the role of women is crucial to a healthy and vibrant community.According to sociologists, women who process information, prioritize, and plan, may be highly beneficial to community development. In general, women may be likely to consider community development as a holistic process, in which the goal is the improvement of society for everyone. Studies suggest that many women work better as collaborators and teammates, making them ideal candidates for community organizations in which decisions must be made together. Thus, increasing the role of women in community development, as well as women empowerment, can lead to more cooperative organizations that seek to improve life for all (Schuftan, 1996).

Within the Jewish community, more specifically, there is room for a larger involvement of women at the forefront of community contribution. Jewish women traditionally hold significant roles in the family and within circles of Jewish women - however larger impact is often quieted. However, in our day and age it has become especially important for women to become more noticeably and formally involved. An increase in the voices of women in every aspect of daily life, community and the work-force must occur – and the first step to creating this advancement is the empowerment of young Jewish women, the generation of today.

Following these conclusions, it is more important than ever to combat the phenomenon of Girls' Silence, in order to give Jewish girls from underserved populations in Jerusalem the opportunity to be empowered, to build the self-esteem and confidence that will accompany them throughout their lives and enable them to meet their full potential.

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Program Accomplishments

The Girls' Empowerment program in its pilot year has already seen some positive results among participants. We can see a steady rise in self-esteem and confidence in their abilities, and as a result, a higher amount of classroom engagement, according to reports filled out by teachers, parents and the participants themselves. Additionally, there is a strong group presence among the girls in the class, a unity that was not there before the program, which positively impacts the girls and provides for them a social and safe space to create identity and to receive support even outside of the program. Moreover, the girls have begun thinking in a critical way about their surroundings and they pay attention to issues in their daily lives that make use of the values they have learned. Following the participation in the program, they truly believe that a girl has the same potential and abilities as a boy, and the girls fight for this equality in the classroom to combat the Girls' Silence phenomenon so they can benefit too.

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How do you measure the success of your program?

The Girls Empowerment Program will be deemed a success with the following criteria:

-Classroom confidence: An obvious rise in the amount of girls who raise their hands and participate in the classroom, and within various scenarios in the school network.A discussion with relevant classroom teachers will take place before and after the program is implemented, in order to analyze improved academic engagement within co-ed schools.

-Identity: Girls will display a heightened sense of confidence and expression, in areas such as body image, independence and self-esteem and social life. The girls will complete a survey before and after participating in the Girls Empowerment Program in order to measure impact.

-Enrichment: Girls will display an increased amount of knowledge surrounding feminist key figures in history and today, with an emphasis on Jewish women, and the future that awaits them as strong Jewish women. The girls will participate in a discussion with a counselor who will assess the influence of the knowledge on the girls' enrichment and aspirations for the future.

By measuring and learning from the impact of such a program, Bakehila hopes to emulate success within the community of young Jewish girls of Jerusalem, and to contribute to a brighter future.

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