Enlightening Youth’s Mindsets to End Violence Against Women in their Communities
Date: Thursday, April 4, 2019
Mohamed Khamis, a 21-year-old young man living in the marginalized area of Imbaba in Cairo, Egypt, is working to develop his neighborhood and spread awareness on violence against women, gender equality and women’s empowerment. However, this was not what Mohamed used to do a year ago.
“I used to gather with my friends on the street walks so that we can sexually harass girls and women passing by. I didn’t work and I didn’t do anything useful; I just spent my time on the streets with my friends or sitting in coffee shops,” Mohamed says.
Although he was not fully convinced, but after much insistence from his sister (who was already a volunteer in the programme), Mohamed agreed to sign up as a volunteer for the Ending Violence against Women programme. Although he remained hesitant for a while, the programme’s training on gender equality managed to convince Mohamed with the concepts of women’s rights, and he began to realize that he used to believe in many wrong preconceptions. As a result of the different awareness raising trainings, Mohamed’s perceptions have become more gender sensitive and he now understands his role in contributing in creating safe public spaces for women and girls, especially in his community.
“I now understand that a woman has a right to wear what she wants and that no one should sexually harass her no matter what she is wearing. Now if I see anyone sexually harassing a girl or a woman on the streets, I go and talk with them and tell them this is wrong and I try to make them understand that a woman has the right to walk safely on the streets,” he adds.
Mohamed also did not have a healthy relationship with the women in his life – his sister and mother.
“I never used to have a role around the house and I didn’t help out with anything, not even buying groceries. If my mom asked me to do something, I would tell her ‘Where’s my sister? What’s her use? Make her do it.’ But now I realize that I have a role and I began helping around the house.”
Mohamed continues to explain how he started treating his sister and mother in a better way. He says that he has stopped shouting and getting angry at them and has become a positive member of the family. Now, he spends more time with his family and takes his sister out – something he used to completely refuse beforehand.
“I believe that if I had been in a relationship before joining the programme, I would have been a very difficult and bad partner who has a temper and shouts all the time. I now understand that relationships are about cooperation and building a partnership. If my future wife wants to work, I will definitely support her in doing so and I will support her in maintaining a strong relationship with her family and I will never try to isolate her,” Mohamed says.
UN Women’s Ending Violence against Women programme has not only reshaped Mohamed’s relationship with women, but it has changed much in how he perceives himself and how he deals with the general community.
“I used to be isolated and secluded and I did not like to cooperate with anyone or do any teamwork. But through my volunteer work, I have realized that in order to create change, we all need to work together.”
After years of believing that men should be tough and should not express themselves openly, Mohamed has learned that men can have feelings too and it is acceptable – even encouraged – to express them and talk freely. This has pushed him to open up and create a channel of communication with those around him in a much healthier manner.
“Everything changed for me. I transformed from a young man who wastes his life on the streets harassing women and returns home at 6 am to wake up the next day by sunset, to a productive member of the community who wakes up early in the morning with the purpose of creating a change. I wake up happy to see the difference I make in people’s lives.”
“I want my friends to join the programme because I want their life to change for the better like my life has changed. They don’t have anyone to guide them, but I try to talk with them and convince them to join, and I have hope that they will come and work on themselves and our community.”
Mohamed Khamis has joined the Ending Violence against Women programme in June 2018. Youth volunteers are one of the main active players in the programme and its objective of raising awareness of gender equality and women’s empowerment in communities. Different creative methodologies are used to raise awareness, such as interactive theater, sports days, art therapy, and self-defense training. Mohamed is a volunteer in the interactive theater and sports days activities.
This programme is implemented by UN Women in partnership with The National Council for Women, the Ministry of Social Solidarity, CARE International in Egypt, and five local NGOs in the intervention areas, and with the generous support of USAID/Egypt.Read in Arabic.