Forces for change: Improving the lives of women in Egypt
Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) play an important role in the work on Ending Violence Against Women (EVAW) in Egypt, as they are on the ground and in close contact with survivors as well as perpetrators of violence and they have a real potential to influence people. UN Women is working closely with CSOs to reach women and girls as well as men to increase awareness on the issue of VAW in communities.
UN Women focuses on building capacities of these CSOs that work tirelessly using strategies tailored to the needs of the communities in order to change perceptions on violence against women and provide the necessary support to women and girls who were subjected to violence. Among the main activities implemented by CSOs are organizing innovative awareness raising sessions and supporting women to become financially independent. Mobilizing volunteers and community leaders as well as engaging men and boys are two of the main approaches that the CSOs apply throughout their various efforts while placing the needs of survivors of violence at the center.
Since October 2017 till September 2018, the EVAW programme has reached out to over 22,615 members of different communities through diverse activities that aimed at raising the awareness on issues related to violence against women in its different forms.
In this photo essay, you will meet some of the key on ground CSOs in different governorates (Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Beni Suif and Minya) that have joined the programme since August 2017 and successfully created a positive impact among their communities throughout the activities implemented. It is worth noting that the EVAW programme is implemented by UN Women in partnership with the National Council for Women, Ministry of Social Solidarity and Care International in Egypt, with the generous support of USAID.
Better Life Association for Development and Training – Beni Suif
Better Life Association for Development and Training is one of the organizations in Beni Suif that focus on achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment among targeted neighborhoods. The association strongly believes in the power of volunteerism to change mindsets in communities and has used this approach to tackle several issues, not only related to violence, but also education, health and economic empowerment. Staff at Better Life Association also understand that cooperation between the organization and the community is pivotal to change mindsets and achieve development in the community. Therefore, creating a large base of volunteers is considered one of the main steps to infiltrate societies and create significant impact.
“We are proud that we have managed to establish a network of volunteers gathering 64 young talented women and men leading on awareness raising activities on violence against women and its negative consequences on women and on societies,” said Bishoy Barsoum, Project Manager.
The volunteers, who are mainly young residents of Beni Suif that are willing to make a change, play a crucial role in leading by example to change the culture concerning gender roles within their society. With the support of the programme, Better Life Association has provided a set of trainings to the volunteers, both who used to be perpetrators and female survivors of violence. The trainings focus on gender, social empowerment, volunteerism and leadership, and how volunteers should respond to and support survivors of VAW. Today, these young leaders have become agents of change as they advocate for women’s rights and ending VAW through the implementation of different activities, such as awareness raising seminars, art therapy, interactive theater, and contemporary dance. Through these activities, the volunteers reach out to different community members and promote a culture of zero tolerance towards VAW.
Ms. Dalia Hamdy, Field Coordinator, explains that improved cooperation with the National Council for Women (NCW) and other organizations at the grassroot level has amplified the impact of their work as it supported them in widening their outreach. For example, several interactive theatre performances and self-defense activities were provided by the CSO’s volunteers to women and girls during local meetings organized by the NCW aiming at raising participants’ awareness on their legal rights.
In parallel, the lawyer of the Complains Office of the NCW branch in Beni Suef takes active part in different local activities implemented by the CSOs, to promote the essential free of charge services provided by the NCW and its Complaints’ Office to women survivors of violence. This ensures that women are aware of their legal rights and that they have lawyers to support them with the necessary support throughout the process
On the main challenges faced, as highlighted by Better Life Association, is changing the deep-rooted belief that men are superior to women, but they are tackling this challenge through promoting gender sensitive perceptions and attitudes using a number of different methodologies, such as engaging men and boys.
Jesuit and Brothers Association for Development – Minya
Jesuits’ and Brothers’ Association for Development (JBA) in Minya works on ground to empower the less privileged groups in rural and urban areas, focusing on the needs of women and girls.
Magdy Nosshy, Field Coordinator in Minya, is proud of the volunteering unit that was established at JBA with over 74 trained volunteers.
With the help of the volunteers, JBA has been successful in slowly changing social norms relating to violence against women, equality and women’s empowerment. Through their work, JBA inform women of their rights and support them to take the appropriate channels to gain these rights. The association also serves as a safe space for women in the community to speak up and seek support and be referred to the services they need.
JBA has also been successful in engaging faith-based leaders, university and schools’ students, as well as community members, in the awareness raising activities, which has had a positive impact on the communities’ perceptions of VAW in the governorate.
JBA is also working on enhancing women’s skills and providing them with income generating opportunities as an approach to address VAW given that women will most likely not report incidences of violence nor seek support if they are economically dependent on men.
“Empowering women and girls through developing their skills and resources is key to break the cycle of violence,” stated Magdy Nosshy.
Future Eve Association for Family and Environmental Development - Giza
Future Eve Association for Family and Environmental Development in Giza creates positive change in Giza and improves the quality of life for women and children through implementing social, cultural, educational, environmental, and health projects.
With the support of 62 volunteers recruited by the association, creative awareness raising activities are organized to reach out to women. Among the techniques used in these activities are interactive theatre performances, sports, crafts, and art.
Hebat-Allah Sadek, Project Manager, describes a key moment that she is especially proud of throughout the project, “I remember when we had an awareness raising session in Imbaba’s Women Friendly Space on the myths and negative consequences of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and a woman approached us afterwards saying she was planning to circumcise her daughter the next day but that she had now changed her mind.”
Through the EVAW programme, UN Women, in collaboration with the Giza Governorate and Future Eve, has taken the initiative to renovate an empty space in Imbaba, creating a “Women Friendly Space”. This area, located near a girl’s school, was popular for high incidents of sexual harassment against girls and women. Now it is renovated to a small park that is fully equipped, including a play area for children. This women friendly space serves as a community space for women where they can play sports, attend informative seminars and trainings, and participate in art activities – which all are organized by the Future Eve volunteers.
After the Governorate of Giza allocated the “Women Friendly Space” to Future Eve, it has now become responsible for supervising the area as well as ensuring its maintenance and financial sustainability.
Al-Reyada Association - Alexandria
Al-Reyada Association in Alexandria puts a special focus on economically empowering less privileged groups while protecting them from all forms of violence. The association also supports the development of civil and governmental services as well as building resilience to future crisis. With this work, the organization aims at improving the lives of women and children by taking them out of the cycle of vulnerability.
Passent Moussa, Project Manager, describes how the EVAW programme has allowed the organization to build sustainable partnerships with governmental and non-governmental organizations. She also explained that the association has been successful in providing services for women survivors of violence, such as psychological and legal support.
Additionally, Al Reyada Association has focused on gaining the trust of the community and stakeholders in the areas where they work, along with their 65 volunteers, to create an environment where women are comfortable to seek support whenever they are subjected to violence.
As a major achievement for Al-Reyada Association, as mentioned by Passent, is how women in the area have become more confident and empowered as a result of the awareness and training sessions that were conducted.
Al-Shehab Institution for Comprehensive Development – Ezbet El Hagganah
Al-Shehab Institution for Comprehensive Development in Ezbet El Hagganah works in marginalized and slum areas of Greater Cairo and it aims at empowering the most marginalized groups such as women, children and youth without distinction based on sex, religion or color.
Dalia Mahmoud, Project Manager, highlights the wide range of reach-out activities carried out by the network of volunteers in Ezbet El-Hagganah, where 56 young women and men have raised awareness of 1,634 community members.
In pursuit of covering all of Ezbat El Hagganah, the volunteers have liaised with other grass-rooted CSOs in the area, establishing a coalition of local associations. Together, they work to change stigma around women survivors of violence and promote gender sensitive attitudes and perceptions. In light of this, Al-Shehab has been successful in gathering many influencers in the community to join forces in order to ensure the greatest impact and change in the community.
On the challenges, engaging men and boys was the main hindrance at the beginning for Al Shehab. Therefore, revisiting the mobilized approaches to ensure interventions are locally owned and responding to the community’s needs were taken into consideration. Today, the volunteers are targeting men and boys in coffee shops, and male’s participation in activities and volunteering unit has significantly increased.
Read in Arabic.