Pictured above: Dianna Yach with her students
BGU has a dedicated support programme for young female Bedouin students. The care for these young women of the future extends from the highest echelons of leadership at BGU to the student body itself… and, even to a particularly generous South African organisation with headquarters in Cape Town.
Recently Dianna Yach, Chairperson of the Mauerberger Foundation, visited BGU to meet with the recipients of the Mauerberger Foundation Scholarships. Dianna, and her mother, Estelle Yach, take the Mauerberger Scholarships beyond just a monetary donation – they get to know their students personally, engaging with them and listening to each individual’s story. Dianna’s annual visit ensures that the Mauerberger Foundation’s mission to empower these women is achieved: through education they are able to empower their own communities. During her visits, Dianna gives the students words of encouragement; she reminds them that women have the power to change the world. In this mission, the Mauerberger Foundation has found a perfect partnership with BGU President, Prof. Rivka Carmi, who is herself the co-founder of an NGO that promotes education for Bedouin women.
Professor Carmi’s contribution to the Bedouin population is far-reaching. Her speciality in genetics of the Negev Bedouin population led to tests that detect genetic abnormalities. Bedouin communities now incorporate these tests in matchmaking, and infant mortality has dropped dramatically. The Israeli government adopted Prof. Carmi’s programme, offering these tests to Bedouins as well as Arabs in northern Israel.
BGU ensures the sustainability of these benefits through its dedicated Robert H. Arnow Center for Bedouin Studies and Development. The Center is tasked with outreach and retention programs, providing financial and academic assistant to Bedouin students who account for about 8% of the student body, half of these students being female. The Bedouin community’s first female gynaecologist is a graduate of BGU. It is partnerships between donors like South Africa’s Mauerberger Foundation and BGU’s community oriented leadership that are empowering the Bedouin women of the Negev.
South Africa’s connections to BGU go back many years, the highlight being an auspicious and unique occasion in 1997 when BGU awarded former President Nelson Mandela with an Honorary Doctorate. The memorable ceremony was organised by the South African Associates of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (SAABGU) and took place at the University of Cape Town.