From where I stand: “I will prove to everyone and to myself that I will not just handle the job; I will excel”

Date: Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Menna Ramadan, 18, is a third-year student at El-Wardian Industrial School for Girls in Alexandria and one of the 150 future electricians and 40 teachers who are benefiting from the Technical and Vocational Education and Training for Girls Initiative being implemented by the Institut Européen de Coopération et de Développement (IECD). UN Women supports the initiative under its joint programme with the International Labour Organization (ILO), entitled “Promoting Productive Employment and Decent Work for Women in Egypt, Jordan and Palestine” that is generously funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).  

Menna Ramadan inside the El-Wardian Industrial School for Girls’ workshop. Photo: Courtesy of IECD
Ramadan inside the El-Wardian Industrial School for Girls' workshop. Photo: Courtesy of IECD.

“When I knew that I was admitted to the electrical maintenance department [of the industrial high school], I cried like a baby because it wasn’t my first choice. I was also bullied by my extended family because they perceive the students in industrial schools as unintelligent. I would often hear things like ‘your education is useless’, and that I should just get married and stay at home. The mocking would also increase when someone learned that I am in the electrical maintenance department. They would immediately say: ‘we will call you to fix our lamps.’ I am sure they did not mean to hurt me and that they were joking, but it was not funny. I was frustrated and I wished I could change my department. But that feeling did not last long.

When the IECD came to our class for the first time, it was a turning point for me. I went home that day and proudly told my parents that that I was going to have a bright future and find a decent job. My family did not take me seriously, but I started to fall in love with electricity and I became very eager to learn about this invisible energy. Through the IECD, I got an internship opportunity at the Dakhliya Port, where I was trained in the maintenance department of a reputable trading company that operates in the port.

At first, my father refused. He did not want me to go and work with men in the port. However, I did not give up easily. I succeeded in convincing him, and I had the honour of being one of the first girls to be trained at the port. Every day I would tell my parents what I had done, and I finally started to see the pride in their eyes. My parents started to encourage and push me to be an excellent technician, especially my mother who always stood by my side and supported me whenever I used to get negative comments from anyone .She is always proud of me. I am certain that God’s choice is always the best and that trusting myself is more important than listening to people’s opinions.

This year, I got accepted into the entrepreneurship training. It has been one of my best experiences since I joined the initiative. It allowed me to improve my public speaking and analytical skills and I had an opportunity to present my business idea with my team at the French Chamber of Commerce in front of a panel of experts. That day, I was very proud of myself and the team. When I graduate, I want to continue to do what I love. I will prove to everyone and to myself that I will not just handle the job; I will excel.”

SDG 5SDG 8: Decent work and economic growthUN Women, through its joint programme with the ILO and partners such as the National Council for Women and the Ministry of Manpower, seeks to empower women technicians of the future like Ramadan and help them break into male-dominated labour markets. The IECD cooperation features various training initiatives, including internship placement and entrepreneurship programmes, where Ramadan and her teammates learn to develop, pitch and implement a business idea. They presented their idea – “Top Technician”, a youth-led social enterprise to support young technicians in joining the labour market through professional training – to a panel of experts at the French Chamber of Commerce. Such efforts contribute to achieving SDG 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls and SDG 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

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