March 9, 2016

In her own words celebrating International Women’s Day 2016

Written by Eric Kilbride, Block by Block Consulting, Managing Partner

Youth in the process of youth mapping

A seventeen years old girl from the Menia Governorate in Egypt:

I am a girl finishing her final year of commercial school from a little village called Bahdal in Menia Governorate. I knew nothing much beyond the boundaries of my village; like most of the girls that live in Upper Egypt, my life was dull and useless until I joined Community YouthMapping.

With my female colleagues seeking something that would give us a different view of the world outside, we joined the program, considering ourselves lucky to have been selected by our school principals. I had many questions that I wanted to ask about CYM, but I was more grateful that finally technical school youth were in the spotlight. We were being offered a chance of a lifetime; we were finally being considered part of the society!

Throughout CYM, I was surprised to see how much respect was given to our opinions, our thoughts, and, more important, our needs. We were no longer a bunch of losers that were forced to join technical education, but rather members of a group of young people that can really make a difference.

Facing my family and trying to explain to them the importance of this program and the changes that will be happening in my daily life was no easy task. I was basically asking an older generation to forget about the norms and culture that they have been living with all their lives, to give me, a teenage girl, my chance to choose a path that is different from what is expected out of every girl from a conservative family: marriage, kids, and taking care of a home.

I tried to convince every family member; my mother was the only one who supported me in wanting to make a difference and change my lifestyle, to be able to get a job opportunity that would help me gain people’s respect and become an integral member of society.

My determination got me several scholarships from local businesses in various marketable skills, gave me an identity in school, connected me with my teachers, and allowed me to become the team leader of student affairs of the school’s student union. But this was just the beginning. Through my fieldwork and surveys, I was also able to get a job in one of the well-established businesses in my governorate, where I have been working since then. Who would have thought, that I, a technical school student, would make it all the way.

The transformation was amazing. From this shy, secluded young
girl came a bold, confident youth who is never afraid to voice her opinion. A youth that has established networks and relationships within her community that are giving her the opportunity to start her own project; a project that will not only make her independent, but also create good for this rural village in Upper Egypt.

My name is Shaimaa Abou Bakr, and I am proud to be a YouthMapper.