El Miniya, Egypt (June 3, 2013) — The Near East Foundation (NEF) and its partners in Egypt recently concluded an initiative to economically empower vulnerable women in low income, rural areas of Menia governorate by providing them with skills training and self-employment opportunities.
The successful El Kheir Kheirein – or “Doubling the Good” – initiative was a collaboration with the Center for Development Services and the Benaa Women’s Association, made possible with funding from Barclays Bank.
Through the project, 30 local women established two professional tailoring workshops with business coaching and financial support from the project after completing an intensive three-month training program to learn how to sew.
One year later, the women owner-operators earn an average monthly income of 500 Egyptian pounds each from their tailoring business. The two workshops are still in production and the women have diversified their product line. In addition to the school uniforms they initially produced, the women now manufacture other kinds of uniforms. They have received orders for 500 school uniforms, 500 school jackets, and 150 graduation gowns.
Mastoura is one of the women whose life has changed dramatically since participating in the initiative. She is a widow who until a year ago had no means to support her two sons. As a girl, she had little formal education and consequently had few marketable skills. After her husband died, the family lost its home and was forced to live with her parents in a small residence.
Today Matsoura can afford to pay for her children’s education, clothes, and other essentials because of the new skills and income she has gained. She also saved enough money to build a new home for her family.
As part of their training, Matsoura and the other women learned business and financial management skills, including how to develop a sales plan and conduct basic market research. They developed a brand for their merchandise – Shrouk or “rising” – to create an easily recognizable name associated with their products.
The production of school uniforms began in June 2012. The first 500 were purchased by the project to provide working capital for the women and then distributed free of charge to disadvantaged children in the Menia governorate before the school year began. Uniforms are required to attend school in Egypt and the expense prevents many children from getting an education.
According to recent statistics, women like Mastoura contribute directly to income in the majority of Egyptian households. However, many of them face similar limited economic opportunities due to a lack of skills and low level of education. These cultural norms create economic dependence on the husband or father. As a result, a woman and her family are extremely vulnerable if something happens to their provider. Projects like El Kheir Kheireinare helping to break this cycle.