Amal Youssef is an artist, trainer, and entrepreneur from Egypt who has founded a center for the economic empowerment of women in poor communities of Cairo. Last year, as a participant in HANDS’ Professional Fellows Program, sponsored by the US Department of State, Amal was able to hone her skills and create new projects through her fellowship placement with Empowered Women International (EWI).
Amal (right) at Empowered Women International
During her time with EWI, Amal shadowed many staff members and learned about various aspects of non-profit management. She also met with female entrepreneurs whose lives were changed thanks to programs implemented by her host organization. Amal had the opportunity to attend entrepreneurship training classes and received coaching from EWI’s executive director and board members to help her further develop her business plan and improve her leadership skills. Additionally, her host organization arranged informative visits to places such as Ten Thousand Villages, Aid to Artisans, and the Torpedo Factory, all of which helped her to further develop plans for her handmade crafts courses.
Now that she has returned to Egypt, Amal’s main work is teaching women the skills that they need in order to successfully start their own handicraft businesses. With the help of a three-month scholarship funded by Cairo University and the International Labour Organization (ILO), she has taught three classes in different areas of Cairo, each one with 15 to 25 female participants aspiring to start their own businesses. She is also working on setting up a training center to teach aspiring entrepreneurs these types of handicraft and business skills, and she hopes to teach marketing skills as well.
Amal at the U.S. State Department during the Professional Fellows Program
In addition to teaching entrepreneurial skills, Amal recently began volunteering with another organization in Kafer Elsheikh, a small city in the region of the Nile Delta, where she trains girls in how to make a specific type of handicraft called Khaiameiah (Egyptian quilting). Each session prepares between 15 and 20 girls with the appropriate skills that will enable them to work in the textile industry. Beyond training, Amal loves seeing how her classes affect her students. “I still connect with people, learn what happened with them, whether they found jobs or not…because in this course we try to improve their skills to give them good chances. Many of them changed during the course. Before they were maybe sad or depressed, trying to find jobs, but now they are motivated and happy.”
Her desire to help others, her positive attitude, and her managerial expertise continuously inspire her students’ journey towards economic and social betterment. Amal credits her experience in HANDS’ Professional Fellows Program with her ability to carry out this project because the program helped her improve planning and project management skills.
Amal (in pink) with a team of HANDS’ American mentors
In addition to teaching textile work and entrepreneurial skills in a classroom setting, Amal and one of her American mentors are developing an idea for an online platform that connects Egyptian entrepreneurs to U.S. mentors, advisers and resources.
HANDS would like to thank its partner organizations, including the U.S. State Department, for supporting our efforts to empower people like Amal and our other outstanding alumni to make effective and long-lasting change in their communities.