The Girls at Risk Empowerment Program is the only program in Israel that employs tennis for at-risk girls, ages 12 -16 to provide knowledge, skills, and opportunities, to develop autonomy and self-confidence, to present education and career paths and to promote gender equality among their peers and throughout Israeli society. Educational professionals at local middle and high schools identify and help enroll at-risk girls from underprivileged neighborhoods. The program runs from October through June. Girls are required to participate in the program for a minimum of two years, preferably for four years to maximize impact.
As of 2018, Empowering over 130 girls in 8 Centers, including:
- Nussdorf Mark Families ITC-Jaffa
- Selma & Irving Ettenberg ITC-Haifa
- ITC-Kiryat Shmona
- Ben B. and Joyce E. Eisenberg ITC-Jerusalem
- Larry and Mary Greenspon ITC-Ramat Hasharon
- Marjorie Sherman ITC-Ashkelon
The program consists of:
- Twice weekly group tennis lessons
- Once weekly physical fitness and health instruction
- Once weekly empowerment seminars led by a trained female Gender Specialist
- 2 Field trips
- National Embrace Day for Youth at Risk
- Lectures from mentors and role models
- Annual lecture about finance management
- Nutrition and healthy lifestyle seminars, three times per year
The groups are introduced to an array of Israeli career women and representatives of the IDF who speak with and mentor the girls during the year. These mentors help expand the girls’ knowledge of the options available to them as women in the workforce and the military, encourage them to pursue higher education, and continue to offer support upon their graduation from high school. Three of the mentors are now graduates of the Girls Empowerment Program, two of whom are serving in elite combat units in the IDF and another is volunteering for a year of national service to Israel.
All of these activities present a “roadmap” to a productive future that breaks the cycle of generational hopelessness and despair by introducing the girls to the lifelong values inherent in physical fitness and sports, improving their physical and healthful well-being, developing a positive group environment, and instilling “life skills” such as self-confidence, self-esteem, leadership, independence, trust in peers and authority, teamwork, goal setting and problem solving. The program will also help the girls define their future role as Israeli women by presenting concepts that promote gender equality and empower them to act in ways that affect positive change amongst their peers and in Israeli society.
Founded in 2013. Rakefet Binyamini, Manager of the Nussdorf Mark Families ITC-Jaffa, reflected on her life experience and realized that girls at risk need an environment where they are welcomed and appreciated, loved, and free to develop into independent young women and productive citizens and that the Israel Tennis Centers is that place.
As the ultimate role model, Rakefet Binyamini, Manager of the ITC-Jaffa, a former Israel Tennis Champion (1981), and one of the few female managers among the fourteen managers at the Israel Tennis Centers stated, “When I see one of the girls at the Center, I know she could just as easily be out on the street. More importantly, I know that the ITC and the game of tennis may prevent her from roaming the streets in the future. I try to give these girls a brighter future.”