Silent no more: Egyptian girls speak out
A quiet revolution is taking place in Egypt's towns and cities. Everywhere you go, it is the girls who jump in, wanting to tell their stories and show their newfound confidence, with help from Plan.
They have been taking part in a number of programs that build their skills, give them practice in participating and speaking out in mixed groups of boys and girls, and sometimes changing the views of their families, teachers and communities.
One of these is Learn Without Fear, a Plan campaign to end violence in schools. Another is Esmaoona, a television program made by children for children that has won a number of awards. Girls also participate in literacy and computer classes and leadership training.
Some of the mothers of these girls, who have come from the villages of Upper Egypt, are keenly aware of how coming to the city has changed the lives of their daughters and themselves. Souad, who has a 10 year-old with Downs Syndrome, says: "The difference between Upper Egypt and here is that there we don't have our freedom. Now I can go to market and go out. There I couldn't even look out of the window."
She feels that her daughter has more chances here. In a village many disabled girls are simply locked up all day, partly because families want to protect their daughters and partly because they are ashamed of having a disabled child, particularly a girl.
Amal, who is a social worker at the local school in Alexandria, says: "When they first come to the city, parents will not allow girls to take part in any activities outside school because they fear for their safety. But we work with the mothers and there has been a tangible change in the girls' behavior."
Working with girls in this way has changed boys' attitudes as well. Farouq, aged 12, says bluntly: "To be honest before I joined these meetings I thought girls were useless and couldn't do anything. Now I realize this is not true and they can do as much as boys. In fact, I went and talked to my parents about this. At first they were surprised but then they agreed with me."
The girls now have a strong awareness of their rights. Manal, aged 15, from a slum area in El Marg, a town outside Cairo, says: "Nobody can take my rights from me now. These programs are also changing the behavior of the families. We used to be silent at home and not say what we thought. We will not be silent any more."
Learn more about Plan's work in Egypt.