Upper Egypt.. The land beyond the temples

Development is about adaptation and innovation, and with that comes poverty reduction. The problem with the poor communities of developing countries, especially the rural ones, is that they are still stuck in a time capsule, all the while their population is growing and natural resources are diminishing. Fortunately, there are many ways to overcome these problems. Unfortunately though, the snag is in introducing them to new methods; i.e. getting them to adapt to innovative solutions.

NGOs play an evidently important role in the development of poor communities in the developing world. ENID is an example of an effectively successful program that contributes with creating more job opportunities and supporting food production and security in rural Upper Egypt.  ENID’s “Sustainable Agricultural Development” program, led by Dr. Dyaa Abdou, is one that focuses on promoting agricultural development. It works to increase the utilization efficiency of scarce natural resources as well as building the capacity of both the rural youth and women to produce and innovate.

The Sustainable Agricultural Development program supports a number of activities that aim at developing the agricultural environment and build the capacity of both the rural people as well as NGOs and governmental sectors to work together. Dr. Abdou highlights the main activities and how they are expected to benefit and up the welfare of Upper Egypt’s rural community. These include:

Integrated Fish Farms

These farms depend on solar power units to extract underground water. The integrated aspect to them emanates from the various agricultural activities hosted on the farms; including food and feed plantations, livestock, recycling agricultural waste to produce organic compost and finally producing Bio Gas to satisfy local needs for electricity/power (e.g. light, heat, cooking… etc.).

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From a craftsman to a well-rounded strategic decision maker

Today, women and youth are ruling over the world and making their mark in various fields with their dedication and hard work to excel in their area of expertise, especially that the youth are the future, and one day will control the nation, but is this the case in Egypt? Well, a major area of concern in Egypt is the youth representing about 20% of Egypt’s total population, whereas rural youth account for 59% of Egypt’s total youth and representing 85% of Egypt’s poor youth (2009 Survey of Young People in Egypt – SYPE).  Further, female participation in the Egyptian labor market is among the lowest in the world since it is a highly gender-discriminated market, in which young women (aged 18 – 29) represent only 18.5% of the Egyptian workforce.

ENID is implementing a set of four highly integrated programs, each of which has the potential to impact on job creation and poverty reduction in both the medium and longer term. The first group of beneficiaries targeted by ENID programs is the youth and women segments of Upper Egypt society. We had the chance to interview Engineer Ayat Abdel Mooty, who is the Manager of Program A “Empowerment of Women and Youth”, during ENID’s first annual conference.

But what does “women empowerment” really stand for?

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Developmental Challenges in Upper Egypt: A woman’s perspective

“الست لو خدت حظها في التعليم؛ هتعرف ازاي تشارك، ازاي تطور في المجتمع بتاعها، ازاي تشارك في الحياه الثقافية و السياسية في مجتمعها…. تعرف اللي ليها و اللي عليها”

“If women are empowered with proper education; they’d be able to participate, to develop their communities, and to contribute to the cultural and political life… They will know their rights and their duties!”

Qena Governorate, Upper Egypt
Qena Governorate, Upper Egypt

These are the words of Zeinab Maghraby, whom we’ve had the opportunity to interview at ENID’s annual conference. Zeinab is a simple rural woman from Upper Egypt, specifically from a small town called “Gezeeret El Dom” in Qena governorate. We asked Zeinab to tell us, in her opinion, about the developmental challenges they face in Upper Egypt and how ENID’s initiative helps them overcome some of these challenges.

Empowering Women..

Modest as she seems, Zeinab makes some compelling arguments regarding the challenges that face development in Upper Egypt and how the government approaches their problems. She first talks about women and how they face many problems, especially in rural Egypt. Zeinab argues that women need to be empowered in the work environment as well as the political life. The underlying challenge, in her opinion, is illiteracy. She believes that an educated woman is fit for participation, advisory and change; whether in the scope of her small community or even in politics.

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Sparking and catching fire

This post was written by Dr. Roksana Bahramitash

ERF workshop on “Women Economic Empowering the MENA Region”

ERF workshop on “Women Economic Empowering the MENA Region”

The world of politics and political campaign is consumed by women’s civil rights; from Quebec leading provincial campaign passing the Quebec Charter of Values, which bans hijab to defend women’s right, to Muslim Brotherhood conservative faction who is campaigning for more traditional role for women. Women’s civil rights remain at the center of attention.

Yet in a world where the poorest 40 percent account for less than 5 percent of global income and gender gap remains a serious issue throughout the world, so little is mentioned about women’s socio-economic rights. The issue is more acute in the MENA region, which has the lowest female labor force participation rates and the highest ratios of female to male unemployment rate.

As a woman from the region, I am always shocked when I travel through the region and make my way in an around the poor neighborhoods; where women walk in and out of markets and shops to buy their basic food. What shakes me is a simple calculation between the prices of basic food and that of the minimum wages, I am sure this calculation has to be behind what women can or cannot afford as they continue to be the one who puts food on the table. In those circumstances, calculating household income against the prices of basic commodities, food, rent, medical bills, utilities and transport seems like an impossible job. It just does not make sense; people’s income and the prices of their basics fails elementary math. The question is how does the household balance the budget. And of course many don’t and end up in absolute poverty.

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Women economic empowerment in the MENA region

This post was written by Hoda El Enbaby (Researcher at ERF)

Data shows that women make up 70% of the world’s poor. They do not get the same opportunities as men, and get less pay for the same amount of work. In Egypt for instance, female unemployment is four times more than male unemployment. The reasons behind these facts remain to be unclear.  Are women unprivileged in our societies just because of their gender? To what extent are women disadvantaged? Do men and women have the same economic opportunities or get the same chances? Has the Arab Spring worsened or improved women’s status in the region?  In order to answer some of these questions and fill the research gap in this topic, the Economic Research Forum (ERF) carried out a call for proposals on “Women economic empowerment in the MENA region“, with the support of the International Development Research Center (IDRC). Under this call, ERF has selected seven proposals tackling various areas of the topic.

The authors of those papers will be given the opportunity to present their first drafts during an ERF workshop that will be held tomorrow, November 29th, at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Believing in the importance of women’s empowerment in the MENA region, the LSE’s Middle East Centre will be hosting the workshop, giving the authors the chance to discuss their findings with experts in the area and to receive feedback on  their studies.

This workshop marks the first ERF workshop to be held in London. It is meant to be the beginning of cross-regional social debate regarding gender issues and the economic empowerment of women.

Stay tuned for more posts from this workshop!