Educate a man and you educate an individual. Educate a woman, and you educate her family, her village, and one day, her nation. It has been a said a myriad of ways, from scholars, advocates, and even passed down as proverbs of wisdom. But the truth remains the same: a girl’s education is not only vital to her own well-being, but it is also key to the prosperitystability to those around her and beyond.
In Egypt, 38% of Egypt’s population---some 17 million adults---are illiterate; the majority of those being in the countryside (UN Data 2013). Unfortunately, the rates of illiteracy are largely unbalanced, with far more men and boys able to read than women and girls. The reason for this disparity is rooted in the inherent social roles attached to both women and men. Men are assigned the task of working and bringing income for the family while women are supposed to take care of the household and raise children. By default, the priority to educate girls and young women takes a back-seat to boys’ education.In the 2000 Egyptian Demographic and Health Survey, 38% of Egyptian mothers believe that parents should send the son to university if they can only afford to send one child, compared to 7% who believe that a daughter should be sent (2000EDHS). Consequently, a family may choose to pull the girls in the family out of school after a certain age (e.g. elementary) while leaving the boys to continue their education up to college in many cases.
At the Valuable Girl Project, we work to promote academic retention and greater awareness of the importance of girl’s education. Despite Egypt’s rocky political landscape since the Arab Uprising, we continue to run 8 sites all throughout Egypt where 163 Big Sisters are encouraged to mentor 163 Little Sisters to continue on to higher education. Big Sisters face the insecurities of their neighborhoods to plan and run educational workshops, seminars, and activities. Together, they throw parties to celebrate their Little Sisters and the seemingly mundane but heroic task: staying to move on from one grade to the next.
At Coptic Orphans, we stand behind all of our Sisters. We look to expand our program to 15 sites and to touch the lives of 420 more girls. That is the total of 746 transformed families, villages, and even the Egypt they call home. Help them to continue. Support the Valuable Girl Project today.
This past September, our Executive Director, Nermien Riad, went to Egypt to personally deliver a $175,000 check of donations to the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch, Pope Tawadrus II. This money was part of an emergency fund for all the Orthodox Christian Churches burnt on August 14th following the deposition of the Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohammed Morsi. When she asked him what more an organization like Coptic Orphans could do to support their country, the Pope told her simply: “Work towards peaceful co-existence and religious tolerance in our Egyptian villages.” With this news, Nermien Riad returned to the US to remake our Valuable Girl Program.
Today, we are redesigning our program to actively pursue what were the unintentional effects of educational mentorship: interfaith interaction that broke down stereotypes, collective cooperation that created friendships, as well as work that brought together communities divided by sectarian tension and violence. This time around, we aim to intentionally pair up Little and Big Sisters across religious lines, run awareness-raising seminar for Sisters and their families, and have training activities in conflict resolution and mediation techniques.
We invite you, our dearest supporters, to continue this journey with us. More importantly, we recognize that we would not have made it this far without you. Your thoughts, suggestions, and support are what propel us forward. What do you think? Can we make a difference in Egypt through grassroots interventions to promote a peaceful co-existence and community cooperation? We sure think so.
And just so you know: despite the country’s recent upheavals, the Valuable Girl Project continues to run 9 sites all over Egypt and works with over 500 Big Sisters, Little Sisters, as well as Local Coordinators.
While Egypt is going through the darkest days in its history with churches torched, businesses ransacked and innocent people killed, Coptic Orphans continues to plough through the religious divide and plants seeds of unity and harmony.
Despite the turmoil and violence hitting Sohag, and other parts of Egypt, Christian and Muslim girls came together to uphold the values of unity and tolerance. It is through such grassroots initiatives bringing a community together that trust and harmony can flourish. This year, the Valuable Girl Project is running in eleven locations with around 500 participants throughout Egypt.
Thank you for your continued support!
Watch the Video Above Here
Did you know that there's a cycle of widowhood among the poor in Egypt?
Under economic pressure, widowed mothers often pull their daughters out of school and marry them off to older men. But that dooms those daughters to one day become widows without the education to provide for their children, either.
The solution is easy: find a way to keep girls in school, and out of marriage until they graduate.
That is the goal of the Valuable Girl Project. Younger girls gain the courage, tenacity, and practical help they need to stay in school through the support of mentors in their local communities. They not only resist family pressures to drop out; but often change their family's views in the process.
Watch Mariam from Egypt tell her story.
People sometimes ask why we place importance on building Christian and Muslim relationships through the Valuable Girl Project. After the revolution sectarian violence has escalated significantly. We see it as our responsibility to continue to build a bridge of understanding to keep our children safe.
In Egypt, many children and adults never interact with each other simply because of their religious differences. Separate cultural and religious practices often eliminate the opportunity to communicate for a basic understanding. As people get older their fear of the unknown can sometimes develop into a full blown hatred.
Aalia* happens to be Muslim and is a Big Sister mentor participating in our Valuable Girl Project. She shares her thoughts about interacting with other Christian girls through Coptic Orphans.
"Before participation in the program, I used to carry negative attitudes and feeling towards Christians in general. I never used to have any Christian friends or as much as talked to my fellow Christian classmates or neighbors, if I knew they were Christian. The reason I joined the project was exclusively driven by the motive to find a job…nothing else! However, upon the start of the project, I was personally touched by the love and respect my fellow Christian girls showed me. After participating in the Valuable Girl Project I started to feel a mutual love and respect for them as well. I felt that something changed in me and in how I lead my life just by observing how they treated me. Consequently, my family also changed their attitudes towards Christians in general. A few months after joining the project, our local VGP coordinators advertised an overnight trip to Assuit which included a visit to Saint Mary’s Monastery and I wanted to go. I wanted to spend time with my new friends and understand more about their life. When I asked my dad if he would let me participate in the trip he said I could go because he knew I would be safe and that I have nothing to fear with my new Christian friends. VGP helped change me and my family’s attitude towards Christians for the better."
*Names changed to protect the privacy of the families
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