This quarter, we held introductory seminars for new Community Development Associations (CDAs) who recently applied to be a part of the Valuable Girl Project. Five introductory seminars took place in Minya, Assiut, Sohag, Qena, and Luxor with a total of 633 attendees from 395 CDAs.
CDAs are local grassroots nonprofits that focus on specific areas of development within their communities, such as women’s rights. We provide each CDA with a grant and specialized training, and the CDA recruits the girls. Mentorship sessions and other activities are carried out at a CDA-affiliated venue, where the girls learn their skills one-on-one in workshops and other activities that tackle community problems.
The seminars included an information session on the new application for the upcoming cycle, as well as live testimonials from local community leaders and girls and young women who have previously participated in the program.
One of the most powerful testimonials came from a Little Sister’s father who is also a well-respected Sheikh in one of our project locations. In the Sheikh’s testimonial, he shared the following:
“My little daughter goes to an Islamic school. She had never dealt with Christians before joining the Valuable Girl Project. Her Christian Big Sister didn’t just help her study, she also had a remarkable impact on her socially and psychologically. The Valuable Girl Project should expand to be implemented in public schools as well, not just CDAs.”
For our current project cycle, we partner with twenty CDAs throughout Qena, Assiut, Minya, and Cairo. It’s a great blessing to have hundreds of interested applications for our next cycle. It shows that Valuable Girl makes a real impact—not just on the girls and young women participating, but on the whole community around them.
We have some incredible news this quarter about our valuable girls.
Many Little Sisters in our program have been asking to learn new computer skills. With the need for computer fluency higher than ever, it only made sense. So we turned to our Future Leaders to organize and implement the perfect workshop for them.
Future Leaders, university students in another Coptic Orphans program who have gone against all odds and excel academically, volunteer for others in their spare time. For this particular need, they put their heads together and planned the perfect workshop.
At the workshop last month, Future Leaders designed and delivered a computer curriculum for the Little Sisters with basic knowledge about programs like Paint, Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, and internet safety tips. They even handmade cardboard keyboards for the girls to take home and study!
650 Little Sisters attended the workshop in three different governorates: Cairo, Minya, and Assiut.
The importance of a workshop like this can’t be understated. Computer literacy can be easy for us to take for granted, and we are so pleased more girls will grow up ready to participate in the digital world.
In fact, one Little Sister’s mother was so happy her daughter learned computer literacy, she came in and asked to be taught herself!
Thanks to your support, Little Sisters will begin the new school year more prepared to use digital classroom tools.
Education is at the core of the Valuable Girl Project’s mission, but the project does much more than provide your typical math, science, and language classes.
Workshops on character-building are central to achieving the successes Valuable Girl has doled out in the past; namely, improving girls’ self-image, increased social and civic engagement, and empowerment on multiple levels of their everyday lives.
Most recently, we were overjoyed to present our girls with a new initiative, Reaching your Dreams, which was developed specifically for young women getting their technical education.
The initiative included seven workshops on many topics like financial literacy, psychological support, and improving their self-image.
With the help of all twenty of our partner community development associations, the first workshop took place over the course of three days. This workshop centered around forming a positive self-image.
Girls and young women responded with positive feedback, with one Big Sister telling us “For five years, I haven’t looked at myself in the mirror because I saw myself as ugly. After the training I started to look in the mirror again, I started to tell myself how I am beautifully created.”
Can you imagine not being able to look at yourself in the mirror for five years of your life?
A positive self-image is crucial for every child. For girls and young women, particularly in Egypt, it can be the difference of a lifetime.
Christine, a Big Sister in college, met Barcenia, her Little Sister in 4th grade, at one of the Community Development Associations in their area. Barcenia lives in a low-income family, her parents are divorced, and she is the oldest of four children. She had issues with academic performance, lacked self-confidence, and was very introverted. Due to her family’s financial status, Barcenia couldn’t get private tutoring to help her improve in school.
Christine felt compassion for her situation and decided to spend her free time helping Barcenia improve at school. Their mentoring sessions deepened the relation and trust between them and encouraged Barcenia to share some of her family and personal problems.
Christine eventually learned that Barcenia was physically abused by her school teacher. Christine encouraged Barcenia to complain about her school teacher to the principal. The principal ignored her complaint at first, but Barcenia put her foot down and defended her rights by continuously raising her complaints to the principal. Finally, the principal responded and officially gave the teacher a warning regarding his attitude.
Gradually, Barcenia improved at school and developed an unwavering trust in her Big Sister. This encouraged Barcenia’s mother to trust Christine as well because of her wisdom and maturity, and revealed that their financial struggles were partially due to her ex-husband refusing to pay his fair share of child support. Christine helped Barcenia’s mother to get child support and cared not only for her Little Sister, but for her whole family.
The Valuable Girl Project’s mission was verified in Barcenia and Christine’s lives by teaching them to be aware of their rights. Girls' empowerment starts by educating them their true value, and when girls and young women help to empower each other, there’s no limit to what they can achieve together!
The names and details in this story have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.
El-Ayaisha is a small village of 16,000 in Qena, Egypt. Most working residents are farmers. The majority of well-educated young men immigrate to other provinces or cities looking for job opportunities.
Like other rural areas in Egypt, people in El-Ayaisha believe in female gentile mutilation (FGM) and have very traditional perceptions about women’s labor. They perceive women as housewives only, and they are excluded from social work. In addition, they do not give women their rights or share of legal inheritance, as they are viewed as inferior to men.
The Valuable Girl Project aims to elevate the status and perception of girls and young women in villages like El-Ayaisha by working on three areas: encouraging young girls to stay in school, fostering tolerance among Christians and Muslims, and building a spirit of volunteerism through the Valuable Girl Project community initiatives.
In this case, the girls of the Valuable Girl Project focused on improving perhaps the most important area of the village: the train station. The El-Ayaisha train station is a vital public service which serves hundreds of people on a daily basis as they commute to neighboring towns and villages in the pursuit of work, school, and various public and private services that are lacking in the village. The platform lacked basic services that are necessary to accommodate passengers’ needs. There was no shelter, no restrooms, and no seats where people can rest as they wait for the train. The platform was totally dark, and people had to pay close attention and count the stops so they didn’t miss their station in El-Ayaisha.
The girls decided to improve the station by equipping the platform with some seats and shelters to allow passengers to rest during the harsh midday hours. They met with a parliament member of the nearest large city to get his recommendation on the proposal and submit it to the proper authorities. Egyptian community development projects often get caught up in mounds of red tape, but the MP and regional railroad ministers were so impressed with the girls’ initiative that they were able to get the necessary approvals in just one week.
The girls invited community leaders to discuss their station renovation plan. They also communicated with different age groups on the El-Ayaisha community Facebook group to mobilize and build consensus among people to support them and participate in the project. In the end, the girls received a great deal of support from the community. People felt a sense of ownership of the project. The initiative also received many contributions: a builder donated his time to build the shelter and the seats, a truck driver moved building materials to the site free of charge, and merchants donated concrete and necessary materials to paint the seats and the shelter.
Incredibly, the official railway authority did not stop there. The railway authorities decided to do a complete makeover to the ticketing office, restrooms, painting, and entrances and exits.
Life in villages like El-Ayaisha can often feel hopeless for young girls, of whom little is expected other than to be married and raise children. But even in the remote places of the world, young girls can band together and accomplish great things. That is the goal of the Valuable Girl Project: to unlock the potential of girls across Egypt.
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