Neqdar Nesharek (“We Can Participate”), a joint cooperation initiative between the Population Council and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), has helped over 1,400 Egyptian women start businesses and some 660 find employment.
The businesses women have started include handicrafts and sewing businesses, poultry raising, hair salons, food catering services, kiosks and cell phones and computer repair businesses.
The Neqdar Nesharek initiative was comprised of an 18-month programme that sought to empower 4,500 women in 30 villages in Upper Egypt. The only qualifications the programme required were that women were aged between 16 and 29.
The initiative provided business, legal rights and civic engagement training, amongst other skills to the women.
Bill Patterson, Acting Deputy Director of USAID, said that inclusive economic growth is essential for development.
A study conducted to showcase the initiative’s success revealed that the percentage of women scoring above average in business knowledge was around 78.8%, compared to 54.1% for non-participants villages.
The study added that around 60.2% women had saving accounts, compared to 9.1% of women in the non-participants villages.
“Neqdar has faced considerable challenges in promoting women’s economic participation in rural Egypt where employment opportunities are limited and conservative social norms prevail,” Neqdar’s project manager Khaled El-Sayed said.
El-Sayed added: “However, by working closely with those communities we were able to address their concerns and rectify misconceptions about role of women in the society.”
The initiative has also helped communities accept the idea of working women and engagement in the public sphere, reaching over 8,000 parents, spouses, siblings and community members.
Kamal El-Sherif, undersecretary for Minister of Social Solidarity, stated that the government is willing to listen to suggestions on how to improve the economies of Egyptian women.
In March, the US government recently sponsored the Luxor StartUp Weekend Entrepreneurship Competition, where entrepreneurs received hands-on training from mentors. Over 150 entrepreneurs were divided into teams and tasked with transforming their creative ideas into business models after creating appropriate business plans.