“Can we do anything to make sure the Valuable Girl Project continues?” a group of mothers recently asked us.
The mothers, whose daughters take part in Big Sister-Little Sister mentoring at our site 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 describe to supporters 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 religious tolerance.
But the project’s effects radiate outwards beyond the girls, and no one feels the benefits 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.
For example, any mother who’s struggled with bureaucracy knows the value of having paperwork in order. In places like Egypt, a lack of this stamp or that document can create immovable roadblocks to basic rights and government services. And too often, poverty, discrimination, and other obstacles prevent “our” girls from obtaining a government identity card.
The Valuable Girl Project educates and advocates for young women as they navigate Egypt’s maze of red tape. By the end of their first year of participating in the project, nearly 30% more “Big Sisters” have government identity 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 through the Valuable Girl Project. And, with Mother’s Day fast approaching, it’s worth remembering that these valuable girls are also valuable daughters.
We salute the strong mothers of our participants, and we’re grateful for their offer to help the Valuable Girl Project keep building and succeeding!