HANDS proudly sponsored a group of 15 professional fellows recently, who came to America from Egypt and Tunisia to learn about women’s economic empowerment over the course of a month-long exchange. The participants chosen for this program were young leaders in the field of women’s economic empowerment.
Nermine, one of our professional fellows, works as an Operations Director for a large consulting firm in Egypt. She also volunteers with under-privileged girls in Cairo, helping them develop life skills and promoting women’s literacy. Her goal for the exchange was to learn better ways to empower young girls, especially in rural areas, to become social entrepreneurs.
In a recent interview with HANDS staff, Nermine relayed the experience she gained from the exchange: “I had a wonderful chance to observe… low- income areas and the revitalization of houses happening there. I was really surprised by the type of coordination that happens among organizations supporting this work.” She continued, “This experience was so helpful to my work in the sense that I got more experience in youth employment, which is a project [I hope] to implement in marginalized areas in Egypt. I learned better methodologies and activities that I wouldn’t have the chance to learn about [elsewhere.]”
Economic empowerment remains a challenge for many women in Egypt and Tunisia. However, according to a recent IMF report, Egypt could see an estimated 34% rise in overall GDP if the labor force participation rate for women rose to equal that of their male counterparts.
Consequently, this session of the exchange program had a particular emphasis on economic empowerment of women from Egypt and North Africa. The fellows had a unique opportunity to partner with various American organizations to exchange ideas and collaborate with their staff.
Nermine was partnered with two host organizations, “I felt so welcome at Pittsburgh Community Services and Pennsylvania Women Work, the two organizations in which I was placed. I learned and gained [a lot of] experience from both of them.” She also made lasting connections with members of the staff. She said, “I have never met such great [people before.]”
The fellows also had a chance to meet with many government and non-profit organizations devoted to economic empowerment for women and helping female entrepreneurs develop strong business models. They visited places like the Department of Labor, DC Women’s Business Center, Compass Partners and the Department of State.
The skills and experience they gained during the fellowship program will contribute to their success and influence in Egypt and Tunisia as they continue to improve the lives of women in their home countries.
As we send our next groups of professional fellows to Egypt and Tunisia this winter, HANDS would like to thank the U.S. Department of State and other generous donors for making this program possible.
We wish all of our fellows success as they continue their great work in Egypt and Tunisia. Their professionalism and enthusiasm in their work is a tribute to women who struggled for economic empowerment before them and an inspiration for younger generations to come.