Girl with disability becomes community leader in Egypt

Wafaa, 15, used to suffer from discrimination due to the stigma surrounding her physical disability. However, since joining a Champions of Change group, she has overcome this and has become a leader in her community.

Wafaa, 15, takes part in a Champions of Change group as part of a Plan International project.
Wafaa, 15, takes part in a Champions of Change group as part of a Plan International project.

Wafaa’s life changed forever in 2015 when she suffered from health problems that left her with hemiplegia – paralysis of one side of the body.

“This completely changed my personality and negatively affected my self-esteem,” she says.

“I became too shy and avoided interacting with anyone in my community. I lost interest in everything including my studies. I turned into a very irritable person and always thought I was inferior to others.”

Transforming her future

Since joining the Champions of Change group as part of Plan International’s Empowering Civil Society to Combat FGM project to end female genital mutilation in 40 communities in Upper Egypt, Wafaa has unleashed her potential and is reconsidering her future.

Now I know what I want to do in my life.

“Through my engagement in the activities of Champion of Change, I learnt how to set a goal for my life. I also recognised that my education is the most important means that will enable me fulfil my dream.” 
Through the group Wafaa has also developed communications skills and has become more confident interacting with others. She says, “Before, I used to be very violent especially towards those who used to bother me because of my disability. Now, I know how to stop them and stand up for my rights in an effective way.” 

Community leader

Wafaa is also more confident in making decisions about her life. “Before, I used to get easily affected by the opinion of others, allowing them to influence my decisions. But now, I know what I want to do in my life and will get advice only from those I trust but take decisions on my own.” 
Wafaa now plays an active role in her community, helps others and supports her peers to stand up for girls’ rights.

“Whenever I find any girl being harassed in the street, I know how to stop the harasser and what to say to the girl so that she can protect herself from being harassed or know what to do if she ever gets exposed to that,” says Wafaa.

Funded by UNFPA, the Empowering Civil Society to combat FGM project supports local organisations to prevent and stop FGM, and empower girls and young women to exercise their sexual health and rights in Assiut, Sohag and Qena, Upper Egypt.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights, Youth empowerment, Female genital mutilation