ADEW's Programs: Helping women help themselves
-Legal Assistance and Awareness Program
-Arab Women Speak Out Program
-Girls' Dreams Program
Fighting Economic InsecurityEconomic empowerment is a critical step in helping women to take charge of their lives. By increasing opportunities for income and enhancing their knowledge and skills, women gain the necessary means to improve their status.
When ADEW began its work in the mid eighties, research found that most Egyptian credit programs required a male guarantor or requested collateral. Thus, low-income female heads of households were excluded from obtaining loans. ADEW developed an alternative credit model that accounted for these constraints.
ADEW's credit program centers on the concept of "peer lending" instead of traditional notions of collateral. Credit groups, normally ranging between three to five women, guarantee each other's loans thereby freeing women from the need for a male signatory or owning expensive assets.
The system is successful for four reasons:
- The credit system is built on a traditional savings model long used in Egyptian society, the "Gameya." Women with little experience in financial matters can understand and relate to this particular concept.
- The successful repayment of loans by each individual group member is a requirement for being eligible for additional loans as a group, meaning that the social pressure to repay loans is high.
- Credit groups require that women themselves screen potential applicants. This is significant because 1) women take responsibility for who they allow to join and 2) group members have a much better idea of who is a credit risk than NGO staff.
- Credit groups provide a support mechanism for women and a forum for women with similar challenges to share their experiences. Credit groups also encourage group solutions to problems and increase cooperation among women.
While the provision of loans is vital, so is encouraging women to save their existing money as insurance for a "rainy day." ADEW's saving scheme helps women understand the benefits of collective savings and the importance of having a cushion for sudden, one-time expenses like the sickness of a family member, a wedding, a death, etc.
Since 1996, ADEW has encouraged women to save at least one percent of their loan and leave it with ADEW in the name of the credit group. How the group then uses that money is up to the group to decide. However, if women save more than one percent, the money is put in a separate account in their own names.
Loans totaling L.E. 3,200,000 have been granted to approximately 8,200 women until the year 2002.
- Loan repayment rate is 96 percent on average. ADEW covers a considerable part of its operational costs by charging an administrative fee of 18 percent on all loans.
"My work made me wiser, and I have become the breadwinner of my family. I intend to find a job for each of my two daughters so that they do not have to be dependent on their husbands, as I was."
Wife of an Urzuqi, Manshiet Nasser
Legal Assistance and Awareness Program
The Legal Assistance Program originally began as a legal service assisting with personal status problems and conjugal matters. The program soon expanded to help women obtain official documentation and teach women their legal rights.
The lack of official documentation in the form of identity cards, birth certificates, marriage certificates, and divorce papers created a major problem for low-income women. 70 percent of ADEW clients do not have ID cards. Without ID women cannot inherit property, register assets, or apply for social security. Additionally, many poor women who face a critical lack of self-confidence would never consider undergoing the myriad of government encounters required for obtaining a card.
ADEW assists with this process by individually counseling women and filing ourt petitions on their behalf. Classes are also held regularly to teach women about their legal rights.
- To date, the program has helped women obtain:
- 18,000 ID cards
- 9,000 birth certificates
- 2,904 drop-out certificates
- 2,160 death certificates of husbands
- 3,460 marriage certificates
- 3,750 divorce papers
- 2,595 documents relating to pension cases
- 5,500 women benefited from legal counseling
- The program has opened a channel between poor women and government entities, as it invites 1) lawyers to speak to women about marriage, divorce, and labor laws and 2) clerks from the Civil Registration Authority to speak to women about the issuing of official documents.
"Had I owned an identity card, I would have applied for a job instead of struggling on my own. Or perhaps, I could have asked for social assistance. I have always had a hard life."
Zainah, 37 year-old widow, Manshiet Nasser
Low-income women suffer from a critical lack of information and resources regarding health and hygiene matters. The prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation in Egypt, complications arising from marriage and childbirth at a young age, and the general absence of information on reproductive health, all raise serious concerns. To address these problems, doctors have trained ADEW staff in public health issues and conducted larger health awareness seminars in women's homes. Doctors were also hired to provide medical advice and treatment to ADEW clients on a weekly basis.
- 3500 visited the doctor for a check-up
- 3500 women attended health awareness seminars
- 1500 women received medical treatment/medicine
Arab Women Speak Out Program
Many of the women who participate in the credit program or take classes on their legal rights lack the personal confidence and leadership skills to play a powerful role in family and community affairs. In 1999, ADEW collaborated with CEDNA and Johns Hopkins University to host classes that would teach womensocial empowerment skills.
A series of seminars were held that tackled the issues of:
- Gender sensitization
- Means of decision making
- Negotiation skills
- Social support networks
- Participation in public life and positions
- The program began with 10 classes and 200 participants and soon grew to 30 classes with 600 participants
- This program also prompted women to request the institution of a literacy program.
The women participating in "Arab Women Speak Out" requested that a literacy program be established. ADEW complied in the year 2000, recognizing that literacy is pivotal to building women's self-esteem and resistance to legal exploitation.
The literacy program uses the Caritas "Taalam Taharar" curriculum with some variations to make the classes more interactive and participatory. ADEW uses film-screenings, field trips, informal tests and extracurricular activities to make learning an enjoyable experience.
In 2003, a total of seven classes were conducted for 95 participants.
Girls' Dreams Program
Research conducted by ADEW Chairperson, Dr. Iman Bibars, has revealed that an alarming 30 percent of daughters of ADEW beneficiaries have dropped out of school. An informal study of this target group shows that many of these adolescent girls have no ambitions or daydreams about their future. They are simply too tired from work and too discouraged by their social exclusion to think about the future in a positive light.
ADEW provides a forum for adolescent girls to come together and discuss their issues in a safe space. The Girls' Dreams Program is designed to acquaint girls with their peers, improve their self-image, and provide them with basic life skills training.
With ADEW staff members facilitating, the girls draw, watch plays and movies, discuss current affairs, and take educational and cultural trips. Whenever possible, the sessions are held in the girls' houses. Many girls who participate in Girls' Dreams either return to school or join literacy programs. ADEW also helps them in obtaining ID cards thus establishing their legal existence.
Women everywhere face untold challenges. ADEW is introducing a new concept, a new idea and a new way for you to help the women of Egypt. ADEW's House of Eve Shelter Program is a novel concept stemming from many years of experience and research. It is a comprehensive approach to supporting women and children who suffer from violence in the home. The House of Eve is a new beginning, for ADEW and for women.
Since its earliest days in the field, ADEW has listened to women speak of the violence they experience, the impasses they face when trying to access help and, in particular, the sense that they are trapped with no alternatives and no support. While 1 in 3 women throughout the world is a victim of domestic abuse, studies have indicated an astounding 96% of low income women in Egypt suffer from physical and/or sexual violence.
Shelter Program Goals
ADEW's shelter program's overall aims are to:
- Provide women with a safe, secure alternative to staying in potentially threatening situations.
- Create a comprehensive service for women and their children suffering from domestic violence.
- Develop and promote a working definition of and dialogue about domestic violence in Egypt.
- Educate and empower women with regard to the issues surrounding domestic violence.
- Raise awareness of domestic violence against women among women, local communities, in the media, at the policy level and with other NGOs.
- Act as a model for other such services in Egypt or in other Arab countries.
- Promote healthy family relationships that validate all members in a positive manner.
Beit Hawa is new, groundbreaking and ultimately experimental. Somewhere right now, there's a woman searching for a better life free from fear and violence. Every woman and child, everywhere, deserves a life of freedom and security. Please contact ADEW at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to help support the abused women of Cairo.