Story One: Eman Sarwat
“Maybe this was myfirst time to demand one of my rights, but definitely it will not be the last”
“My name is Eman Sarwat, I am 33 years old and
I live in Abol-Teeg Centre, Nakheelah Village- Assyut.
Before participating in Women’s Voices Programme, I was a girl similar to most of the girls who live in Upper Egypt. I was persistent and eager to achieve what I want, but I was never sure about where to start. I was just a French language teacher and I did not know how to reach higher!
I attended couple of trainings to understand how, in a conservative society like mine, I can play an important role. I thought that with these trainings I have become ready to race. When I heard about Women’s Voices Programme from one of my friends, I communicated with The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR) and I learned that the Programmeis supported by the Fund for Gender Equality – UN Women. I also learned about the eligibility criteria of the Programme. Fortunately, I met the criteria, so I decided to apply. I submitted my resume along with the Programme application. In two weeks, I received a phone call from ECWR informing me that I had been accepted and the first training would be held in two weeks. It is important to mention that ECWR team has emphasized on a very important point, that this Programme is not just a training to attend, it is more of an entity and by participating, I will be part of this entity. They also clarified that the only condition for my participation is my willingness to pass the knowledge I gain through the Programme to larger groups of young women in Upper Egypt, especially those who are not aware of their rights. They emphasized that I should help raise the awareness of these women and encourage them to participate effectively in the upcoming Local Councils elections. At the beginning, I was hesitant, but later on, I made my decision to participate in the Programme.
Through participating in a 4-day training, as part of Women’s Voices Programme, I learned many important things that I had no idea about before. I learned what local administration really means, what local councils are, and the role they play in the community where I live. I learned how local councils are formed, their terms of reference, and their sub-committees. I learned that local councils are responsible for the infrastructure, transportation, electricity, schools, and even bread outlets.I learned what civil society means and how it contributes to the principle of good governance. I also learned about the constitutional articles that address local administration and that one article, Article 180, that grants women one fourth of the elected local councils’ seats. Do you know what one fourth really means? It means more than 13000 seats. I learned that my right to participate is not just a reward granted by someone, it is a constitutional and legal right.
The training has helped me see where the start point of the path that I have been looking for. The training has enabled me to speak up and share my ideas and plans about improving the services in the community where I live. After the training I decided to be more civically engaged, so I cooperated with another coordinator in Women’s Voices in Assyut to establish the Voice of Youth Association for Training and Development in Assyut. We managed through this association to launch several initiatives, the most important of which is AbnAsoul Initiative for promoting tourism, We Are All One for Peace Initiative, Awafy Caravans for Assyut villages that lack medical services. Also as part of Women’s Voices Programme, I conducted a 2-day training for a group of 40 young women in Assyut. The training covered local councils and electoral campaigns.
After one year of being part of Women’s Voices Programme, I was invited to participate in the periodic presidential youth conference that was held in Aswan in January 2017. I think if I had such an opportunity before, I would not have accepted as I was a strong believer in the notion that politics is for men only and women do not have a say in politics. After being part of Women’s Voices Programme and learning about my rights and the role I should be playing and when the president was discussing the pillars of building a strong nation, I decided to speak up and express my demands. I actually managed to ask the president “When can we see a woman as a governor? When can we see a woman as a University President? When can we see a woman as a Cabinet Head??”
In spite of all the criticism that many of the public figures and politicians have raised after my demand, I was surprised when the president in one month appointed Eng. Nadia Abdo as Behira Governor. Maybe this was my first time to demand one of my rights, but definitely it will not be the last.“
Story Two: Amira Nabil
“Women’s Voices Programme has allowed me to learn A B C constitution and laws.I do believe that now I am not just a single mother, who works as a teacher; I am also an activist who is serving and supporting other women in her community”
“My name is Amira Nabil, I am 33 years old and I live in El Hamam City – Matrouh.
I am a single mother who lives in a tribal community where women are perceived as only mothers and caregivers. Before joining Women’s Voices Programme I was not part of the civil society, I was only working as a teacher as I am the only breadwinner and I have a daughter to raise. When I started thinking of possible ways to support I looked for charity organizations, but I was faced with the harsh reality of how many of these organizations abuse the cause to gain money and how many of the people they support are not in real need as they pretend.
When I learned that Women’s Voices Programme is recruiting young women in Matrouh, I decided to apply to explore a new sphere of civil society. I got accepted and I became part of Women’s Voices Core Group in Matrouh receiving the trainings and technical support. I would not be exaggerating if I say that Women’s Voices has allowed me to move from a world of theories to a world of practice and application. After joining Women’s Voices Programme I realized that making a positive change in my community is challenging, but possible. The Programme has allowed me to learn A B C constitution and laws. I learned how to read law articles and analyze them. I learned how to read and understand the public budget and how to analyze how this budget responds to the needs of women, if it does. This knowledge and practical experience has helped me find answers not only to my own personal problems, I was expecting at first, but to the problems of my community and where I live.
Two years after joining Women’s Voices Programme, I do believe that now I am not just a single mother who works as a teacher; I am also an activist who is serving and supporting other women in her community. I am currently helping many women in may community, especially the breadwinners of their families to be entrepreneurs and start their own enterprises. Apart from that, I also work on raising the awareness of these women about their rights, especially the rights granted by Family Status Law.”
It is important to mention that Amira has participated in the interactive competition that Women’s Voices Programme has launched through its Facebook page in November 2016. Through this competition, the most debated articles of the Local Administration draft law were discussed on daily basis in the form of open-ended questions where the participants can express their thoughts and opinions. Amira has shared very brilliant ideas and insights and she won the first place in this competition.
Story Three: Marwa Belady
“When I joined Women’s Voices, I realized that my dream of being a member in the local councilsis turning to reality.”
“My name is Marwa Belady, I am 29 years old and
I live in Talat Village – Fayoum.
I am currently a PhD candidate in Fayoum University. Before applying for Women’s Voices Programme, I was part of the Parliament Module for Youth in Fayoum in addition to being a volunteer in some community development NGOs.
When I joined Women’s Voices, I realized that my dream of being a member in the local councils is turning to reality. ECWR has allowed me to attend trainings, conferences and events that enhanced my knowledge and helped me gain firsthand experience. ECWR, as part of Women’s Voices Programme, has gave me the opportunity to meet with current female members of Parliament. The Programme has also helped me organize a training on local councils in my village where I passed on the knowledge I learned to a wider circle of 22 women. This training has let my community perceive me as a “change maker” and one of the candidates for the parliament elections in Fayoum has asked me if I can be part of his campaign. I accepted the offer to learn more about elections and to get prepared for the upcoming local councils’ elections.
To further capitalize on this experience, I joined one of the active political parties in Fayoum, Mostakbl Waten. I am currently heading the Women’s Office of the party in Fayoum. With the support of Women’s Voices Programme, I started a series of seminars that target both men and women in Fayoum and help enhance their political participation, not only in local councils, in other realms as well.”