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Civic Engagement Takes Root in Nazlet Emara


Civic engagement, especially among young women, is an uncommon sight in Upper Egypt. It's even harder to spot in impoverished villages. So imagine how it looked to residents of the village of Nazlet Emara when a crew of determined girls came through, planting trees at the local school and sprucing up the neighborhood.

The tree-planting effort exemplifies the spirit of civic engagement that is growing among 60 young women who are participating in Tamkeen, a Coptic Orphans project funded by USAID. 

Like all civic engagement, the girls' project emerged from dialogue. It happened this way: While discussing community problems during a civic education training session run by the Horus Association (a community development association working with Tamkeen) these young women expressed a strong interest in collaborating to tackle one of the problems. 

They discussed five different issues facing them and their neighbours in Nazlet Emara. In the end, they decided that a lack of cleanliness, especially around the Horus Association’s street, was a problem they could feasibly work on fixing together. As part of their clean-up initiative, they set a goal of beautifying the area by planting trees.

After making that decision, the girls were encouraged to take the initiative to the next level by recruiting stakeholders. They set up a meeting with the principal of the local primary school to make their case. Having listened to their presentation, the principal agreed to back their initiative, but said they would need  approval from the Tahta Education Administration. With guidance from Tamkeen coordinators, the group headed for the Tahta City Council and the village administrators. Success followed, in the form of the necessary approvals. Their initiative was now ready to take shape as a clean-up campaign.

On the day they launched their campaign, with approvals ready in hand, the girls donned bright red Tamkeen T-shirts and went to the school to start cleaning up and planting trees. The school's students and teachers were so motivated  by this highly visible civic action that they decided to participate in the campaign. After the event, they were curious to learn more about Tamkeen, its objectives, and the mission that had led to such positive work. 

As the girls realized, forming associations, working together, and navigating bureaucracies are all integral parts of civic engagement. Tamkeen is working with community development associations in Minya, Assiut, and Sohag to teach exactly these skills to young women. “One of the most important lessons we've learned and practiced through Tamkeen is how to make a group decision,” said one of the participants in the clean-up campaign.

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Tamkeen builds the capacity of community development associations that support girls and young women in Upper Egypt through work with community development associations in Assiut, Minya, and Sohag.