From where I stand: “We must overcome any fear and we must move forward.”
Date: Wednesday, February 10, 2021
Malak Adam* is a 36-year-old Sudanese woman who sought refuge in Cairo after experiencing maltreatment in her country of origin. Although Malak is a trained accountant, she had no option but to work informally in Cairo. In her quest to generate enough income to support herself, she survived several incidents of exploitation and abuse. Malak was advised by social workers who were supporting her in dealing with her trauma to join the Amigurumi training facilitated by Vandi, which is a social enterprise working in collaboration with UN Women Egypt on providing skills training and employment opportunities for refugee and Egyptian women.
“When I finished my first day of training a year ago, I went home and called Vandi to tell them that “I cannot do this, it is too difficult for me and I am not coming again”. Then one of the trainers talked to me and convinced me not to give up, so I decided to give it a second chance. She [the trainer] started mentoring me very closely as we used to stay for many hours after the training to learn more and work together. I started to develop my skills very quickly, and everybody was noticing and supporting me. It was rewarding to see myself learning and developing after a very long time of feeling nothing but fear.
I then got a job at Vandi while also working from home on my own products. I could not believe that I could now work in a safe place [Vandi] and that I could finally generate enough income to support my needs. In 2020, when the COVID-19 crisis started, myself as well as my colleagues were worried about our health and about losing our jobs, but, fortunately, we were able to continue to work from home and generate enough income to support ourselves.
Now I feel very independent and even if I leave my current job at Vandi, I know that I am able to secure a decent income because I have learned a craft.
This experience gave me a reason to be optimistic about the future and I now dream of starting up my own business. I want to have my own designs of crochet bags that meet the highest possible standards, and I am already working towards that goal. I wake up every day thinking about it.
When my friends, who passed through similar experiences, tell me that they feel paralyzed by their trauma, I tell them that life isn’t all beautiful, but we must find the beautiful side. We must overcome any fear and we must move forward.”
The collaboration with Vandi falls under UN Women’s “Leadership, Empowerment, Access and Protection” (LEAP) programme, which aims to support refugee women such as Malak* as well as members of the host communities through capacity-building, vocational training and access to financial services. The programme is implemented in partnership with the National Council for Women and UNHCR and is generously funded by the Government of Japan. This story reflects the programme’s efforts to contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1: “End poverty in all its forms everywhere” by contributing to the financial independence of refugee and Egyptian women. The programme also contributes to the achievement of SDG 5: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” as it addresses the gendered challenges that these women face in their quest for financial independence.