ExxonMobil Corporation launched in a special ceremony Women’s Equality through Economic Empowerment in Fayoum Governorate, Egypt, in partnership with Save the Children, under the auspices of the Ministry of Social Solidarity. The project aims to provide women from the underprivileged in Fayoum with equal opportunities to acquire life and economic skills to set up their enterprises in order to improve the living standard of their families and develop their communities.
The ceremony was attended by Eng. Hesham Elamroussy, Chairman and Managing Director of ExxonMobil Egypt and Lubricant Manager for North Africa and Middle East, Ms. Nihad Shelbaya, Public and Government Affairs manager at ExxonMobil Egypt, Mr. Chris McIvor, Country Director of Save the Children in Egypt, and Ms. Amani Saleh, Director of Education at Save the Children and Project Manager of Women’s Equality through Economic Empowerment. The Ministry of Social Solidarity Advisor, Dr. Essam El Adawy, also participated at the ceremony, in addition to the project team and the group of women facilitators who also attended the event.
In his speech, Eng. Hesham Elamroussy stated that the success of this new initiative relies on the effective partnership between ExxonMobil with its well established history in community investment, and the long-term experience of Save the Children in developing the youth and the families in Egypt, in addition to the coordination with the relevant ministries, such as the Ministry of Social Solidarity and the Ministry of Education. Success is guaranteed when the collaboration involves the local NGIs who can effectively communicate with all women from Fayoum who are seeking a major life change through their participation in the project.
Eng. Elamroussy added: “Business cannot grow in isolation; instead, we believe it is important to grow together with the communities in which we operate. This is the reason why ExxonMobil focused its community engagements on education and empowerment of the women and the new generation, because education is the key catalyst for the development of societies
The project, carried out in Ibshoway and Youssef El-Seddiq areas in Fayoum, seeks to economically empower 800 women. It also provides awareness and life skills training to 600 children of participating women, in addition to premium early childhood care and development services to 240 young children, through the centers that will be established and furnished according to the best scientific standards. The Egyptian Association for Comprehensive Development has been commissioned to recruit and train the group of women who will be the facilitators of the Women’s Equality through Economic Empowerment in Fayoum project. The role of the facilitators is to reach out to the needy women for the project. It is planned to set up 8 centers for children development in addition to training 24 teachers to provide children with the best care services.
For her part, Ms. Nihad Shelbaya, Public and Government Affairs Managers at ExxonMobil Egypt, has voiced her pride for the enthusiasm shown by participating women– the facilitators who volunteered to help improve their communities and the trainees, who have a true desire to raise the standards of their living and develop their families.
Ms. Shelbaya explained that the selection of Save the Children to carry out this vital project comes naturally after a long and fruitful cooperation with the NGO, which began in 2008 with Ishraq, and continued with ‘Ishraq Plus’ in 2011, two consecutives programs providing out-of-school adolescent girls in Upper Egypt with education and life improving opportunities.
Ms. Nihad Shelbaya said: “We have made an impressive success through our partnership with Save the Children giving 1,600 adolescent girls, who were deprived of education, a new life. Currently, these girls are small business owners and run a clothes’ workshop to make a living. That has been an incentive to renew partnership with Save the Children whose vision is aligned with ExxonMobil’s, considering education and women development a top priority.”
In this speech, Dr. Essam El Adawy, Advisor to the Ministry of Social Solidarity, praised this cooperation bringing together the efforts of three parties: the civil society, the government and the private sector. He stated that this was the key to any real development.
In this regard, Mr. Chris McIvor, Country Director of Save the Children in Egypt said: “Save the Children seeks to provide a safe and healthy environment for children’s upbringing. It is therefore essential to focus on women, since they are the family’s backbone and the primary parent responsible for children’s upbringing. Women’s economic and social needs; and women’s effective and positive participation in the economic scene are key objectives. Changing the society’s mindset towards women and girls is important in order to remove any barrier to their positive participation in the community. This is why all partners are cooperating to develop the beneficiaries to help them achieve their full economic and social capacities. Another objective of the project is to develop the local NGOs in Fayoum to carry out the project in the designated areas, to ensure an effective outreach to the most underprivileged people, a guarantee for sustainability beyond the projected timeframe.”
Women’s Equality through Economic Empowerment project in Fayoum relies on a number of training programs to help build the capacities of women, and to help them choose ideas for small businesses in line with their social circumstances. Women are also trained on management and marketing skills. The project features awareness sessions and forums to improve women’s skills in raising their children with appropriate educational and health standards, in addition to developing their leadership skills.
In this regard, Ms. Amani Saleh, Director of Education at Save the Children and Women’s Equality through Economic Empowerment in Fayoum project manager, said that ExxonMobil “is a strategic partner” and cooperating with such an entity “adds credibility” to any project. The long history of cooperation and what has resulted as achievement in community investment is an evidence for that, according to Saleh.
Ms. Amani Saleh has revealed a number of facts about the choice of Fayoum, citing that it is one of the poorest governorates in Egypt, and lacks infrastructure services. Moreover, a set of criteria were specified to choose trainees such as: living conditions, number of family members, income, and education and whether the trainee has an established business and needs to improve her skills to expand.
Ms. Amani Mohamed, one of the project’s facilitators, said: “My studies in social work have encouraged me to volunteer in this project and develop my skills taking part in an activity that improves my community. Empowerment of women would ease pressure on families. I wish this important project will continue as there are many women in the governorate, especially college graduates who need incomes to make a living for themselves and their families.”
In the same vein, Ms. Marwa Hussein, one of the volunteers, said women are marginalized in their communities although they are the core foundation of families, noting that women in Fayoum need a lot, particularly financial independence, which boosts self-confidence and raises women’s position in the society, in addition women’s ability to be able to deal with the community.
She also added: “We, as women, frequently face difficulties due to traditions as men usually resist women’s work. But with this project, we can overcome such difficulties through forums to make men more aware of the importance of women’s participation in building the family at various levels.”