Special to the JTA Na’amat Asking Knesset to Pass Measures on Equitable Sharing of Child Care Betwee

Na’amat has recommended that the Knesset pass legislation to encourage more equitable sharing of child care responsibilities between mothers and fathers, according to Haviva Avi-Gai, chairperson of Na’amat’s Department of Status of Women.

Israeli law now stipulates that working mothers are entitled to a year’s maternity leave, a shortened work day, and up to six days leave annually to care for sick children, Avi-Gai told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Na’amat has proposed that these privileges be given to either mothers or fathers, according to the wishes of individual couples.

“Laws in themselves have some educational value,” Avi-Gai, an attorney and Tel Aviv-Jaffa City Councillor, said. She believes that legislating equality of status inchild care responsibility will make the practice more generally acceptable to Israeli men and women. Forty percent of married women in Israel work outside their homes, she said.

Avi-Gai heads both Na’amat’s Department of Status of Women and the organization’s Legal Aid Department. She is responsible for Na’amat’s 14 legal aid offices throughout Israel, serving some 3,000 public clients. Na’amat is a movement of 750,000 working women and volunteers in Israel, connected with the Histadrut. Pioneer Women/Na’amat is the American sister organization.

ACTIVITIES OF NA’AMAT

Avi-Gai has been affiliated with Na’amat for 18 years. In the aftermath of the Six-Day War, she took a leave from her private tax law practice to help the organization set up legal aid bureaus for bereaved families. Since then, Na’amat has provided legal services for women with matrimonial, child custody, labor, social security, income tax, and other problems.

Currently, the movement also recommends legislation and offers educational programs on the status of women. Na’amat has been responsible for legal changes relating to abortion and to military service for religious girls, and for preventing the extension of religious law, Avi-Gai said.

While she concedes that social norms evolve slowly, she believes there has been significant progress. The change in the attitudes of legislators has been the most important benefit to the status of women in Israel, she said. “Ten years ago it would have been illegitimate to say that a wife is a victim of a husband’s violence,” she recalled. Now the subject of womens rights is taken seriously and is no longer a laughing matter in the Knesset.

A member of the Labor Party, Avi-Gai was elected to the Tel Aviv-Jaffa City Council in 1983. She carries the City Council portfolio for Health and Hospitalization.

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