Educating Women, Empowering Families in Egypt
When Ama showed up for her first class in hairdressing at Cairo’s New Life Center vocational training facility, Director Sawsan knew that something was wrong. The woman moved slowly and sometimes doubled over in pain.
In spite of her discomfort, Ama was committed to the class. Her husband, an electrician, had been out of work since the Revolution of 2011. They needed to house and clothe and educate their three daughters, aged 10, 14, and 16.
Eventually Ama confided to Sawsan that she could not afford to seek relief for her pain at a private clinic. So Sawsan consulted with her extensive network of generous friends and professionals and found a physician willing to treat Ama and dispense a prescription free of charge.
Ama was treated for kidney stones. The pain lessened enough for her to concentrate on the course, and a few weeks later she graduated with a certificate in hairdressing. She now serves clients in her home and supports her family with the revenue.
Sawsan also invited Ama’s eldest daughter to assist with office work during the summer to help her earn money for school. The daughter then joined Sawsan’s inaugural course “Beautiful You.”
“Beautiful You” draws a small group of young women together once a week for six months. The women share a meal and talk about their lives. They study the Bible and learn about their preciousness in God’s sight. They are encouraged to discern their individual gifts and life purpose.
“In Islamic culture, men are thought to be at a higher level than women,” explains Sawsan, who left a career as a pharmacist last year to work for International Needs Egypt and run the center fulltime. “We try to correct this.”
In addition to experiencing social and career discrimination, some Egyptian women face myriad threats to their safety, dignity, and wellbeing. As minorities, Christian women are sometimes pressured to accept marriage proposals from Muslim men—an arrangement that requires their conversion to Islam. Sometimes poor and desperate families even sell their daughters as “temporary brides” to wealthy tourists in a pattern of institutionalized prostitution.
Since the New Life Center opened in June 2015, 100 people have graduated, including 40 women in the hairdressing program. Students’ very modest fees are subsidized by generous donors, including International Needs Egypt.
Resources like the center are a godsend to a nation of 90 million people mired in political turmoil, poverty, and unemployment.
“It is such a pleasure to be able to help people like Ama and her family,” says Sawsan. “It is a difficult time for my country. I want to do all that I can to help my people.”