"Mothers of Valuable Girl Project participants can see their daughters grow in maturity, confidence, and skills."
"Can we do anything to make sure the Valuable Girl Project continues?" a group of mothers asked the project's staff in 2015.
The mothers, whose daughters were taking part in the project’s Big Sister-Little Sister mentoring in Sohag, said they’d seen remarkable changes in their girls. They wanted to help keep those changes going.
For Egypt, which doesn’t have (to put it politely) the strongest traditions of women’s empowerment or civil society, this was something striking. The mothers’ offer to help also highlighted something that we don’t talk about much — the wider effects of the Valuable Girl Project.
Most of what we focus on is the project’s core: Meeting young women’s needs for education and skills, nurturing their sense of self-worth, encouraging them to steer clear of harmful traditions such as FGM and early marriage, and offering them safe spaces to interact in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
But the project’s benefits radiate outwards beyond the girls, and no one feels them more strongly than mothers. For example, we regularly survey participants, who range in age from 7 to 22. Nearly all report that their lives have changed because of the project, citing a greater belief in their own sense of responsibility, discipline, punctuality, self-confidence, and study skills.
What mother doesn’t want her daughter to become more responsible, confident, self-disciplined, and studious? It’s traits like these that the mothers in Sohag said they were noticing in their daughters.
But as important as these personal traits and skills are, the project also has tangible benefits for each family’s bottom line. That’s important, and gets at the heart of why the project was started.
The story is this: The more Coptic Orphans staff got engaged with the orphans’ families, the more they began to see a really striking trend. Mothers were dying — denying themselves medical care — because they felt valueless and were using what little money they had to meet their children’s needs.
But of course, a healthy child requires a healthy mother. Stopping this destructive cycle seemed desperately important, so in 2002, the Valuable Girl Project was founded. Then as now, it was funded by a special pool of donors, separate from Not Alone and other programs.
Since that time, the project has been working towards its main goals: educating girls and unlocking their leadership skills, so that they understand their own worth. The project also involves young Christians and Muslims, in order to build mutual respect in Egyptian communities. We’re taking the lead in working with the entire community, because in doing so, we believe, Christians become the true salt of the Earth.
In 2015, in Port Said, Matay, Armant, Sohag and Luxor, 142 Little Sisters and 142 Big Sisters met twice a week. The older sister mentored the younger one in schoolwork and life skills; the coordinators taught them the value of teamwork, creativity, planning, and accepting others. Many times, as usual, the Big-Little Sister relationships were Christian-Muslim, offering an important bridge between people whose paths might not otherwise cross.
In terms of the project’s material benefits, the Valuable Girl Project educates and advocates for young women as they navigate red tape in Egypt, where too often, poverty, discrimination, and other obstacles prevent “our” girls from obtaining a government identity card. By the end of their first year of participating in the project, nearly 30% more “Big Sisters” have such cards — the key to unlocking significant rights and services.
In other words, mothers of Valuable Girl Project participants can see their daughters grow in maturity, confidence, and skills, while making progress in securing their rights and resources.
That’s a combination of benefits that’s hard to come by in Egyptian society, and one we’re excited to provide, with your generous support, through the Valuable Girl Project. By God’s grace, 2015 was a great year, and we look forward to many more!
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