Aida Becomes a Leader

Author Portrait_Walaa Hassan, Adolescents and Livelihoods Program Officer
Walaa Hassan

Adolescents and Livelihoods Program Officer

Save the Children in Egypt

September 2, 2017

On her way to her first day of facilitators’ training, 16-year-old Aida smiled as she passed by the Arab Al-Qadadeh youth center, remembering how before she was not allowed to enter this place to play or even to attend any kinds of activities.

In rural areas especially in Upper Egypt, where Aida is from, people are conservative and trust in old traditions that restrict the movement of girls, frowning on their involvement in outdoor activities or other events that would have them move around or play in front of boys or in the public’s eye. Instead, they are expected to spend all their time doing work around their homes or finding other ways to serve family members, for example by doing farm work to help with income.

Aida, youth leader and champion of girls' rights.
Aida, youth leader and champion of girls’ rights.

Aida joined Tomohaty in 2015. Tomohaty, meaning “Ambitions” in English, is a holistic program that covers topics that are related to the wellbeing of adolescents, such as life skills, responsible citizenship, reproductive health, livelihoods and career guidance. This curriculum is provided through coordination between Save the Children sponsorship staff and the local Ministry of Youth, and supported thanks to donations from our sponsors. It focuses on empowering out-of-school girls through sessions that build their self-confidence and teach them how to express their opinions, adopt positive behaviors and attitudes, and make decisions. In addition to learning new skills, the Tomohaty program also sets up time for girls-only sports activities inside the local youth center. This is so important to combat the culture that keeps girls inside their homes, both by helping girls to feel free and also by calming parents’ fears as they know the girls are playing somewhere safe.

Previously, Aida used to spend her time doing the housework or working in the fields to earn money. She would hand the money to her father to help provide for the family, so that he would not have to carry this burden all by himself. She was deprived from her right to learn and not allowed to go to school. Instead she was exposed to the very strenuous and high pressure responsibility of supporting the family, which deeply affected her hopes for the future.

By joining Tomohaty, Aida started to attend sessions with girls her age and practice sports at the youth center, exploring her self-awareness as she had never done before. She discovered, for example, that she is very talented in volleyball. She also started to share what she learned in the adolescent sessions with her parents and siblings.

She began to shift her role from solely attending the sessions to more of a leadership role, for example helping to keep the other students organized by assigning roles in activities and group projects, speaking out in front of the group, and taking the initiative to talk to the head of the youth center about the girls’ needs. Through these sessions, Tomohaty taught her how to express her fear and rejection of the traditions restrictive of her rights to her parents and help them understand the freedom and opportunities she felt she deserved.

Despite their conservative traditions, her family began to support her, even when her network in the community became wider as she started to tell her neighbors about the importance of these sessions for their daughters. Although she is young, she was able to make a significant impact on her community, evidenced when 8 new girls from her neighborhood in Arab Al-Qadadeh joined Tomohaty classes, solely resulting from Aida’s conversations with them and their parents.

Aida showing her classmates the right positions before their volleyball match.
Aida showing her classmates the right positions before their volleyball match.

In addition to that, the Tomohaty program helped Aida to attend a training for social workers and facilitators on first aid, which she was able to use to help her father when he burned his hands while making tea at home. He was astonished with her knowledge but more so with her new found self-confidence. “Now I am proud of having a daughter supporting me like a boy, [even] more [than a boy],” said Aida’s father excitedly. He was even more proud when she practiced with him the lessons on first aid and ways to deal with emergencies which she would be demonstrating to new girls in the youth center.

Aida was nominated to be a facilitator in 2017 after displaying her leadership skills and talent in communicating with girls.  “Aida has transformed into a young lady in her attitudes and behaviors, she has formed effective relationships with girls in the youth center and she has turned into a leader,” explained her Tomohaty facilitator, Faiza, a sponsorship trained community member who helps oversee the group.

Aida also attended a 7-day training with Save the Children to even further enhance her skills in facilitation and communication, and she is now preparing her first session as a Tomohaty facilitator in the Arab Al-Qadadeh youth center.

“I want to add value for other girls in their lives. I want to be a female leader and make my parents proud of me even more,” recounted Aida with confidence. Clearly, Aida is already achieving these dreams and helping many people.

Our deepest thanks to our sponsors of the children and programs in Egypt for making these achievements possible.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.