One out of every two Ethiopian families in Israel lives in poverty; on the average earning 40% less than their Jewish-Israeli counterparts. Thirty-six percent of Ethiopians are entirely dependent on the public welfare system. The hope to break out of this cycle of poverty is by providing better employment opportunities for the second generation .

That is why JobKatif, an organization dedicated to empowering marginalized population groups to integrate into Israel’s work force and enjoy stable employment and financial security, launched Achotenu.

Achotenu enables young, motivated Ethiopians to become nurses in Israel’s medical institutions by breaking down the barriers that were holding them back.

Why nursing?

To evaluate how best to help Ethiopians gain stable employment, JobKatif used the best practice of conducting a needs assessment. Over the course of a year, we interviewed Ethiopian women across Israel to better understand their needs, educational interests, and how best to help fulfill their career aspirations. Over 90% of respondents expressed interest in studying nursing.

Achotenu was founded in 2013. With Israel suffering from a dire shortage of nurses (according to a recent OECD report, Israel’s 4.8 nurses per thousand residents is below the 8.8 average in developed countries), over the next few years, Israel will have to significantly increase its nursing staff, virtually guaranteeing a stable income for qualified nurses.

What was holding them back?

The women listed as barriers: a lack of role models and mentors, financial limitations and university entrance requirements – the psychometric exam. Achotenu overcomes these barriers.

With less than 10% holding a post-secondary degree, and the Ethiopian sector scoring below the Jewish Israel mean on the psychometric exam (a requisite for acceptance into Israel’s universities), it is understandable why so many Ethiopians are relegated to lower paying positions. We believe that other culturally sensitive and success-based measures can be used instead and have proven so with our pilot program.

Today, Achotenu is the only program in Israel working to change the system of academic admissions for this sector. We work with Knesset members, government officials, universities, nursing schools and other non-profit organizations to help change admission requirements into nursing schools, and find alternatives to the psychometric exam.