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Ali – My School and I

On the Western bank of the River Nile, resides 12 year-old “Aly” with his four siblings in Minya governorate.

Unlike most students his age, Aly is impressed with the developed standard of his school and the improvements it has witnessed since the beginning of “My School and I” project; “In our school you hear no cursing, you see no sexual harassment or gender based violence, girls are just equal to boys.”

Aly believes external maintenance was all that was missing for his school to be perfect; “The buildings were very old and dull; we wished they could look better and we approached our principle, and she promised she would consider our request but had no funds.”

“My School and I” project started working on the dream of Aly and his colleagues; painting the school’s façade, equipping it with the needed tools, and maintaining its facilities, the school totally transformed.

The project’s activities are not limited to this; it also aims at fostering a safe environment for its students, and educating them about protecting their bodies from any harassment they could be subject to.

In addition, the project works on improving the students’ leadership skills through including them in extracurricular activities, and improving their reading and writing abilities through readability classes.

Aly speaks about his favorite learning method which was newly introduced by the project in his school; the study groups.

The method depends on dividing the students into mixed groups of both weak students and top achievers; this stimulates the weak students to improve and gives the top achievers an opportunity to help their colleagues, creating a motivational and cooperative atmosphere among the students.

In these study groups Aly has helped three of his colleagues improve their reading and writing skills.

As a pro-active student and a member in the school’s student union, Aly decided to take an action towards achieving his colleagues’ will of introducing new sports activities at school.

He took the initiative and delivered their will to the school’s administration, and together they started working on arranging football tournaments and introducing new sports such as volley ball, which qualified him to become the sports secretary at the students’ union.

According to Aly, the best thing about working in the school’s student union is working on improvements and witnessing people’s satisfaction afterwards;

“I am overjoyed when I hear people complimenting our school and its achievements, it’s the perks of being part of the students’ union. I love my school and I wish the whole city is as developed and beautiful as it is.”

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“You are as precious as a star, no one is like you”. Khadija, who is a sixth grader and the Secretary of the school’s student union empowers her colleagues in Minya, Upper Egypt with those words.

Despite her young age, she talks to them about child protection techniques and gender-based violence with confidence and wisdom.

“I learned that my body, especially my private parts, are my own, no one is allowed to violate my privacy and see or touch them.”

Khadija’s strong interest in women’s rights emerged when she joined the activities of “My School and I” project, which aims to cultivate leadership opportunities for girls through extracurricular activities and school participation and raise their awareness on gender and child protection in Beni Suef, Minya and Assiut.

The project’s events included working in groups and brainstorming different methods of stopping violence against women.

Khadija recounts “the activities’ facilitators talked to us about women’s rights, and raised our awareness on different violations that women are subject to.

We now know that violence is not only limited to physical violence like hitting and harassment, violence can be psychological too.

Being called names, shaming and labeling women, and refusing to publicly call a woman’s name in public and calling her by her husband’s name instead, are all types of psychological violence that women are subject to, and we must firmly resist and refuse”.

Khadija’s interest in her position as the students’ union president is driven from her love of helping others.

She likes to help her colleagues learn how to protect themselves from any violence, she also coordinates with the protection committee at school to ensure all the students are safe and secure.

Together with other members of the union, they took the initiative of involving the students in the process of transforming part of the playground into a garden, and asked the school’s principle to arrange for a “going green” class once a week, where all the students could practice gardening to beautify their school.

Khadija hopes to play an active role in protecting women rights so that she could one day witness her society free from violence against women.

The project is funded by Dubai Cares and implemented by CARE International in Egypt and targets 15,000 primary students (50% girls, ages 6-12) in 20 schools.

Additionally, it targets over 600 stake-holders such as teachers, social workers, board of trustees members, members of child protection committee, supervisors from the Ministry of Education, school administration members, Physical Education teachers, female leaders and school maintenance team members.

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CARE International Egypt and UN Women organized an event on 6th December 2017 under the USAID funded “Women’s Employment Promotion Programme: safe and secure workplaces for women in the agriculture sector”.

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Her shiny eyes and mesmerizingsmile reflect her strong personality, which clearly shows when she speaks.

Viola, 11 years old, is the youngest of two brothers, and an active student within her school.

Through My School and I project, Viola’s school went through some restorations which included the school’s buildings maintenance and classrooms’ renovations.

The project also encouraged students to become more environment friendly after transforming part of the playground into a garden.

“The project resulted in major changes for our school and its surroundings. Now that the school wall is higher, we feel safer. Also, the new trees made our school smell pleasant”.

Aiming to cultivate leadership opportunities for girls, extracurricular activities and sports were also introduced to the school.

Activities such as students’ union, camps, and physical Education (P.E.) classes were implemented for the first time.

The project also worked on encouraging girls to join these activities “We play basketball at school.

I would also wish to learn how to play volleyball in the future. Thanks to the project, we now have a variety of games at our school”.

My school and I also initiated a child protection campaign teaching the students about protecting themselves and their bodies from any sexual harassment they could be prone to; “We learned to value ourselves and not to let anyone cross our boundaries.

If anyone tried to harass me, I won’t be scared, I would firmly stop him, shout out loud and immediately report the incident to my mother or one of my teachers who will protect me” explains Viola.

One of the best traits that Viola and the other students acquired during the project’s camps is being cooperative and supporting each other; the camp’s team building activities didn’t only teach the students how to protect their bodies, but also how to empower each other and educate their friends and neighbors on how to protect themselves.

As a former class president in the students’ union, Viola believes this experience had a huge positive impact on her personality and enhanced her leadership skills.

Her love of helping others pushed her towards running for the students union’s presidency this year.

Viola wishes one day that her small village would be safe and totally free from any harassers, and be more empowering to girls, realizing boys and girls are equal.

She also wishes to become a doctor in order to cure the people of her village, as she would hate to see her loved ones suffer.

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Survived by raising chicken, Dalia Moawad tells her story

Dalia Moawad, a mother of five children, two of them from a previous marriage of her husband, tells us her story about how raising chicken saved her and her family. She lives in Melaheyat Sa’id village, Beni Suef. Her father-in-law kicked her and her family out when she told him about her chicken project. For him, selling chicken in the market is “a scandal for the family”, she says. She went to live in another house that she built when relations got so complicated with her father-in-law. They moved to a one-room house with no ceiling, no windows, no electricity and no water. Literally, they had nothing, not even money to buy food. Her husband works as a daily worker. Whenever he works, he is paid 30- 40 EGP a day. “Work was not a privilege. I needed to feed my children”, Dalia says. Dalia decided to choose duck raising at home after the association approved her candidacy. This was the perfect choice for a mother of five children. With a grant of 2000EGP and 200 EGP that she paid, Dalia got 25 ducks and 75 kilograms of feeds. Before receiving ducks, participants attend training sessions about raising ducks, feeding and vaccines. “Selling ducks was not easy. This is why I decided to shift to chicken in the second round. It is easier to sell”, she adds. Raising chicken is a profitable business but requires a lot of effort. Dalia has raised 50 chicken in the first cycle, 75 in the second cycle and 100 in the third. “I doubled my profits. My neighbors keep telling me they want to start their own businesses too. They ask me for advise”, she explains.
Thanks to her efforts, Dalia was able to get electricity, install glass for the window and a door for the house. Despite of her successful business, Dalia remains among vulnerable groups. Her son broke his arm few weeks ago and needed a quick surgery. Unfortunately, she had to use all of her profits to pay for the surgery. Now, she lost most of her capital and has to start all over again. Meanwhile, Dalia keeps dreaming of expanding her business and ensuring her children go to school.

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Aida, hairdresser and stylist in Al-Ezzeya village

Aida Shafik introduced herself as an illiterate housewife and mother of three children. At least this is how she used to be. Aida lives with her husband and children in Al-Ezzeya village, Manfalot disctrict (Markaz) since over 10 years now. For her, life was harsh until she heard about Hayat Kareema project. “I once went with a relative to a hairdresser and saw her pay 200 EGP. I can become a hairdresser. My husband works all day under the burning sun of Assiut just to come back home with few pounds that do not cover our expenses. I know I can help”, Aida says. Aida faced many challenges before she could fulfill her dream. Norms put many restrictions on women’s freedom of movement and limit their ability to conduct profitable activities outside their homes. Women work is often shameful in Upper Egypt. At the beginning, Aida’s husband refused the idea: the business needs a capital to buy equipment, while his income barely covered the family basic needs. More and above, Aida did not have the skills needed to conduct a business of hairdressing. In addition, it is out of question for her and her husband to leave the house and spend few days in Assiut to get the required training there. At that time, her dream was far away from becoming true. To improve the economic opportunities for women in poor communities like Aida, Hayat Kareema distributed sub-grants to 130 local grassroots associations, 60 of whom supporting women, to launch micro-projects in order to ensure better livelihoods for themselves and their families. Why women? “Because we believe in the role of
women in improving livelihoods of their families and children. We also fully understand that many of the social issues that women face including domestic violence, early marriage as well as other problems are strongly related to crushing economic challenges”, Howaida Nagy, Project Manager at CARE explains. The community development association (CDA) in her village just made an announcement for women to present their applications. Approved candidates receive training sessions in order to gain the necessary skills for running their new businesses. For example, Aida received a two-week training at the local association on all aspects of hairdressing business. The association contracted a professional hairdresser from Cairo to come over in Assiut and train 15- 20 women the necessary skills for becoming a hairdresser. “I’d like to thank our trainer for everything he taught us. I did not come out of the training as a super hairdresser but I learned a lot. With practice and ongoing communications and advice from our trainer, I even became a better hairdresser”, she said. With a growing business, Aida can now support her children. “I am now capable of meeting my children needs and offer them a decent life. I say to every women out there: “work as long as you want to. People will talk anyway, so let them talk about me doing something useful for my family”, Aida says. Today, Aida’s husband supports her. He supports with food preparation for their children and makes sure they study their lessons. Now, Aida is thankful for him, as he also wants to see this business grow.Aida, hairdresser and stylist in Al-Ezzeya village Photo credit: Doaa Hamdy

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Filtering and packaging, another example of machinery use in agriculture

Filtering and packaging is another example of introducing machinery in agriculture sector. Beni Suef governorate produces vegetables and fruits allocated for exportation. However, filtering and packaging process took place outside of the governorate which previously led to yield losses. Launching a filtering and packaging unit in Ezzbet Hussein Namek has created new job opportunities for many women in the village. The majority of women used to work in yield collection. Work conditions were harsh and remuneration was not good enough. “I used to go to the field at 5.00 am and turn back home after 7.00 pm. Farms are always far away from the village. Even in case of emergency, I could not go back home. No toilettes, no break area to rest, nothing! We work for uninterrupted hours”, Madiha Geneidi, one of the women workers in crop collection then filtering and packaging explains. “I have a four years old son. I have to leave him with one of the neighbors to go out to work. What if he gets sick?! I cannot come back home until all women finish the work and get into the car”, she adds. Women are paid 50 cents/ kilogram for both collection and filtering and packaging. For them, working next door in flexible working hours is better than the work in the crop field. “Any worker who wants to be excused for an emergency can leave and come back later to pursue the work”, Eid Imam, CDA chairman at Ezzbet Hussein Namek highlights. “I get paid the same amount of money but I get to work in a clean shadowed space with toilettes”, Noha Mahmoud working at the filtering unit explains. Norms prevent women from leaving their houses for long hours and go to long distanced places. “My husband would not let me work if I go to farms far away from the house. Filtering vegetables next door is a suitable job for me”, Noha says.
To ensure the sustainability of the unit, the CDA relies on training workers on delivering high-quality produces to exporters. It also plays the role of middleman between the producer and exporter through initiating contractual agriculture agreements.“We deliver training to workers about the required specifications of the end product to avoid any dismissals while delivering”, Eid explains. “We opt to keep this unit running for helping over 100 workers/day to improve their livelihoods”, he adds.