On-field work in Upper Egypt taught us that raising awareness through educating locals is the best way to share knowledge; but if you are aiming at improving sustainable, grass-root behavior change, awareness is only just the beginning! What comes next is encouraging those now-knowledgeable locals about how to organize themselves, work in a productive team, detect the problems and negative phenomena their community is suffering from, run an asset-based community mapping, and come up with creative ideas that would attract their people, especially youth and younger generations as they make up nearly half the population nationwide: and that is exactly what our team believed in when we came to the final step of our project; the local community initiatives.
Our project in Sohag is being carried out in cooperation with 10 local NGOs from 5 centers in Sohag (Tema, Sohag, Akhmim, Balyana and Dar El-Salaam). Our team trusted the capacities of the partner local NGOs in identifying the most common problems they face as well as the most adequate means of addressing them, and that is why you would find each NGO running their own initiative about a problem they chose to address. The first place we started an initiative from was Al-Karnak village in Dar El-Salam center, one-hour drive from Sohag’s center. Volunteers who came from the village saw the need for addressing prenatal care as this particular place in the city suffer from child marriage and there is a pressing concern on the health of young mothers. The initiative was implemented through awareness sessions, seminars, and home visits. Home visits activity was much appreciated by the locals in the village as well as people in Upper Egypt in general as it stands on an intimate methodology and one-on-one counseling. Another NGO that was focusing on Dar El-Salam center was Al-Nesa`ya whose volunteers were so active and passionate about volunteerism, reproductive health matters and gender issues. In that center, we are targeting 2000 young individuals, half of whom we successfully engaged in our initiative-related activities and we are still half-way through our initiative.
Another center we are condensing our efforts in is Tema, which is in the northern part of the governorate. We work there through a local NGOs El Taree’ El Gedid “New Way Association” in addition to a local network of volunteers who cooperated previously with Etijah. Our initiative addresses awareness on breast cancer, early detection and workshops for our female attendees on the importance and the how-to do self detection. The topic seemed to be really crucial for the targeted community as little amount of correct information is available to the public.
NGOs in central Sohag are the most active and with the most wide-spread outreach to the public compared to other parts in the city. Activities over there weren’t solely limited to family visits and seminars, it also included organizing cultural events and sports days as means to attract rather younger audience who are the primary target of our initiative. Our team selected the most highly populated villages, and through partnering with local NGOs we were able to address the needs of communities over there. Our initiative targets villages like Al-Mahamda Al-Bahariya, Tunis village, Edfa, and Neda village in the neighboring center of Akhmim. It targets issues like prenatal care, STDs, breast cancer, and general awareness for teenagers on reproductive organs.
It’s been incredible working with all these passionate youth; the real hope for Egypt. For the team in Cairo, this year has been a living proof that if you empowered youth with the access to the right information, organizational skills, and the spirit of volunteerism, you are destined to witness how powerful they are.
Dr. Bishoy Sadek