Although woman’s empowerment has been at the top of Egypt’s priorities during the past decade, with legislative changes and a large number of initiatives – for example, anti-trafficking and anti-harassment laws, and the women’s quota in the Egyptian parliament - still girls and women face enormous challenges in the country. Plan International Egypt has designed its Girls’ and Women’s Empowerment Programme with a focus on targeted interventions to empower girls and women improve their economic status.
Yassmin and Safia are two sisters aged 17 and 18 respectively. They live in one of the most marginalised villages in Assuit, Upper Egypt, and their family consists of 11 members. Due to health issues, their father can’t work, and for years, the family depended only on the income their mother generates from manufacturing hand-made baskets. Such income was barely covering the basic needs of the family. Joining Plan International Egypt’s “Rural Youth Economic Empowerment” project marked the beginning of Yassmin and Safia’s journey towards social and economic empowerment.
“Our mother encouraged us to join the youth savings group,” said Yasmin. “She got to know about it from one of the awareness raising sessions she attended at our local development associations.”
According to Yasmin, her mother found in the savings group an answer to the daunting financial challenges the family face. Several times, the mother tried to get loans from different financial institutions but she faced a lot of barriers. Each one of the sisters joined a youth savings group. The price per share was L.E. 5.
“After a few months, we got our first loan of LE.500,” said Yasmin.
Through their participation in the youth savings group, Safia and Yassmin engaged in several training sessions including “Enterprise Your Life”, financial literacy and vocational trainings. Such training had an impact on the way both sisters think and act. For Yasmin and Safia, investing their savings in an income-generating activity was the priority.
“The training helped us know how to analyse the market needs and promote what we have to sell,” said Safia. “We were happy when we started our home-based grocery store. The project worked well and we made good profit. We decided to buy a machine to produce sugar candy so that we can have variety of products and attract new customers.”
“One of the happiest moments in my life was when I could pay the cost of constructing a wooden ceiling for 2 of the rooms in our house,” recalls Safia. “I feel that I can make a change in my family and that all my family members now believe that my opinion counts.”
In addition to improving the economic status of their family, Safia and Yasmin’s social status has improved. They are now regarded as role models in their community, thanks to their success in managing their project and the set of skills they demonstrate when dealing with people in their community.
For Safia and Yasmin, the savings group will continue to be the tool they use to achieve their dream and become socially and economically empowered. They dream that their store will grow to be a supermarket serving people in their community.