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Ishraq: Enlightening young women in Egypt through education

In many parts of the world, women still face economic and social barriers that prevent them from contributing to the development and prosperity of their communities.

This is especially true in underprivileged villages in Upper Egypt. Although the value of education has come to be highly recognized in this region, girls’ education comes second to boys’ due to prevailing cultural traditions and norms, which limit the role of girls and women.

A program called Ishraq – Arabic for “enlightenment” – is aiming to change this perception. Ishraq is a partnership between ExxonMobil Egypt, the National Council for Youth, and Save the Children that improves educational opportunities for out-of-school adolescent girls in rural Upper Egypt through a curriculum of literacy, life skills and sports. Girls graduate equipped to become community leaders or entrepreneurs. According to Amany Noshy, a program beneficiary, “Ishraq opened up our eyes to a new world. Thanks to Ishraq, I have become an educated, enlightened girl who can effectively serve her community.”

Employing a grant from the ExxonMobil Foundation, Ishraq began as a three-year program in 2008.

Ishraq is empowering young women to become confident, productive adults and increasing economic, political, education and health benefits for families and communities. The father of one of the participants, Laila, highlighted the change that he noticed in his daughter following her participation in the project. “By extending the project’s activities to Mansoura, numerous girls have now become educated and enlightened.”

Students in Ishraq classes work together using an integrated curriculum of literacy, life skills and sports.

Why is the Ishraq project important to rural Upper Egyptian girls? Women remain limited in terms of education, lifestyle, family life and health care, as shown by these 2005 demographics:

  • Access to education in rural Egypt is gender-dependent. The female literacy rate is 59.4 percent while the male literacy rate is 83 percent.
  • For girls from 13 to 15 years old, 54 percent are not enrolled in the formal education system, compared to 11 percent of their male counterparts.
  • Undereducated girls have restricted mobility and limited social networks, suffer from poor health and malnutrition, and are at risk of early or forced marriage.
  • Research has shown that women’s education has an effect on the health and prosperity of their entire families.

Ishraq opened up our eyes to a new world. Thanks to Ishraq, I have become an educated, enlightened girl who can effectively serve her community.