Women Employment Promotion Programme has given Samar the Chance to Start a New Positive Chapter in Her Life

Date: Sunday, July 22, 2018

Samar Hamdy sharing her story during a Conference on Women Employment Promotion Programme Achievements
Samar Hamdy sharing her story during a Conference on Women Employment Promotion Programme Achievements. Photo: UN Women/Mohamed Hindy

Samar Hamdy, 25, is from Minya in Upper Egypt. She is one of many women living in rural areas and deprived from their right to get proper education. At the age of 15, Samar was forced to get married. Three years later, she became a mother of two and by the time she turned 21, she got divorced and was left to raise her girls on her own. Without any financial support from her divorcee, she became dependent on her father and brothers’ support for basic necessities such as food and shelter. “I felt like I was a living dead, with no chances for breathing fresh air,” Samar recalls. 

Samar was used to stay in the house, locked in the care-economy only. She never took any kind of transportation or travelled outside her village. The way Samar was brought up did not give her the chance to think about her own development. As she was submitting herself humbly to these rural settings, the young lady was approached by the Community Service Organization (CSO) in her village to offer her a job opportunity at Daltex, one of the companies participating in the Women Employment Promotion Programme (WEPP).

WEPP, which is led by UN Women Egypt and implemented in partnership with USAID and CARE International in Egypt, aims to achieve a more gender-inclusive environment in the agricultural value chains. Being implemented in three governorates in Upper Egypt, WEPP works on creating gender sensitive environment for women at different agribusiness firms through implementing policies that address sexual harassment, promote equal job opportunities and equal wage for work of equal value, and provide incentives for employee retention, particularly for women. “Women represent 41% of the workforce in the agriculture sector, however, most of them remain in the insecure seasonal employment, which ends up in more than 80% turn-over rate which is a lost investment to the employers. Therefore, the WEPP invested in addressing the barriers to women’s decent employment, retention and equal opportunities through availing quality long-term job employment, safe transportation, social protection, medical insurance, and child-care facilities at the agribusiness firms who adopted and operationalized the Women’s Empowerment Principles to advance the status of women at their workplaces”, stated Engy Amin, Women Economic Empowerment Officer at UN Women Egypt Country Office.

When Samar learned about the decent job opportunity available at the farm where she will learn how to grow, trim, and pack grapes, she was not sure that she can convince her father or brothers to allow her to work and earn a living on her own. She had to exert tremendous effort to convince the men in her family to let her pursue such an opportunity, and eventually she triumphed. “Now I have a job that I eagerly wake-up in the morning to go to. My job secures a monthly salary that fulfills my children’s needs and allows me to be economically independent”, added Samar proudly.

At the beginning, Samar had no work skills. When she started participating in the vocational and soft skills trainings offered through WEPP, she started to discover her potentials and capacities. WEPP’s activities encouraged Samar and many other women to believe in themselves, build their confidence, and improve their social and critical thinking skills. “Women in our community always thought that paid labor was for men, and that women’s role is limited to house work and childbearing. We are now changing the community’s perception and proving that women can even do much more than men,” Samar explained.

Samar with her coworkers at the Women Employment Promotion Programme
Samar with her Daltex co-workers, one of the companies participating in Women Employment Promotion Programme. Photo: UN Women/Bahaa Ismail

The programme also encouraged women to form a labor committee to liaise between management and workers. To date, the labor committee has successfully negotiated an increase in basic salary and more convenient working hours. It has also succeeded in instituting a grievance box to encourage women to voice any problems without fear of repercussions. “We want to empower women. We’ve created a culture of mentorship for women throughout the company but until now, we were never able to reach the most marginalized segments. WEPP has provided us with an outreach and access to these women and we’re happy to be able to help them utilize their potential,” stated Hend Kassab, Daltex Quality Assurance and Corporate Relations Manager.

Samar’s next goal is to become a member of the labor committee as she believes that she has now acquired the necessary skills to be assigned more responsibilities and get involved in identifying solutions for the issues facing working mothers. For Samar, work was just to earn money to raise her children, but then it became the drive for her own self-development.

Samar’s dream is to advance in her career to a supervisory level so she can be a role-model who supports and provides other women with similar opportunities like hers; she aims at sharing her success story with her children when they get older. Samar also dreams of owning her own farm and be a trustworthy employer for her peer villagers. “My job is the source of my happiness and my children’s wellbeing. I will always strive to prove to everyone that women, even if uneducated, can do wonders,” she commented. “For the first time in my life, I feel full of positive energy and that I have a purpose in life. I am even different with my children, and will do whatever I can to secure an income and help them complete their education, be employed, and get married to the right supporting partner”, she concluded.