In a moving ceremony last Wednesday at the IBM Haifa Labs on the campus of the University of Haifa, eight women from the Haifa Women's Center for Employment and Training, completed a basic computer skills course.
For the past several months, the women-Arabs and Jews, new immigrants and veteran Israelis-have attended classes at the Haifa research facility, learning to use the Internet, email, and basic office software. As part of the project known as "Women for Women," IBM employees taught the courses and provided personal tutoring to the course participants, many of whom had never worked with a computer before.
The course itself was part of the Women's Center program, organized by the Haifa Women's Coalition and several other women's organizations in the Haifa region. Made up of several components, the Women's Center program is designed to enhance the job market potential of course participants by giving them new skills in a variety of personal and occupational areas.
Michal Dagan, the coordinator of the Haifa Women's Center, said the IBM course was a crucial component of the program.
"This course has provided these women with more than just an introduction to computers," Dagan noted. "It has empowered their lives in general. I can't think of a better example of giving to the community than what IBM did for these women in this course."
At the commencement ceremony, the course participants explained just how important the skills course was for them.
"The computer is no longer a silent, frightening box," said Lydia Nikitin, 49, a mother of three from the northern Haifa suburb of Kiryat Ata. "Because of this course, I now see it for what it is-a modern, useful tool."