Tag Archives: women

She’s Making Dignity a Family Tradition

untitled-design-14
Ireney doesn’t seem to know the meaning of the words “take it easy,” which may explain how she’s built her business into a source of family pride and dignity.

You last heard about Ireney in 2014, when I visited her in Samalout. She overwhelmed me with hospitality then, and things hadn’t changed a bit around her livestock feedstore when I saw her this summer.

Except – that’s not strictly true. Since I last saw Ireney, she’s converted her hard work, intelligence, and B’edaya loans into more progress. She has expanded her line of animal feed, flour, and fertilizer.

There in the cool, cavernous “warehouse” that’s connected to her home, she meets customers and neighbors, closes her deals, and does one more extremely important thing: she passes on her values.

Ireney is very clear: She wants her kids grow up to be hard-working in their lives and occupations. To that end, she’s begin involving her young son in accounting and helping her with the business.

It’s important for her kids to have role models, because they’re already missing one. Ireney’s husband passed away many years ago, so her guidance is all the more crucial.

Together with a specially trained Coptic Orphans volunteer — a Church-based “Rep” who comes recommended by his bishop — she’s putting her children on the path to a quality education and solid values.

Ireney’s success demonstrates what widowed mothers can achieve with access to this type of microcredit initiative. Her goal is to grow the business because “the more I can buy, the more I can sell.”

B’edaya funds these women’s income-generating projects from the ground up until they become self-sufficient. Donations cover all aspects of the loan process from beginning to end, and the money is reinvested over and over to help multiple families.

But beyond this, there is the foundation that’s being laid for a new generation. B’edaya mothers model the behaviors that give their family dignity and their children the keys to success.

To those who’ve never been there, it’s hard to grasp what Ireney is overcoming. In Samalout, and in Upper Egypt in general, traditions severely limit widows. Many end up taking charity for life.

But Ireney is breaking this mold, with your help. Two years from when I last visited her, she’s going strong. Her kids can see it, and you can feel it — in her manner, in her frequent laughter, in the prosperity of her household.

And it’s not only her household. In March, Coptic Orphans held ceremonies around Egypt honoring 42 widowed mothers. They received a total of LE243,500 (US$27,400) in microloans for their income-generating projects.

All of us at Coptic Orphans see these mothers as heroes. By God’s grace, and through your generosity, we’re honored to provide them with both microloans and coaching in entrepreneurial skills to develop their inborn perseverance, ingenuity, and business-savvy.

This is a great blessing to be part of, and the Coptic Orphans family is grateful that you’ve chosen walk with families like Ireney’s.

* The name of the B’edaya participant has been changed in this instance to protect her privacy

‘My Father Was Amazed at What I Could Do’

Girls who grow up believing in themselves can achieve great things!
Girls who grow up believing in themselves can achieve great things!

What happens when you awaken someone’s understanding of their own rights and self-worth?

Valuable Girl Project coordinators know that awakening, because they’ve seen it on the faces — and heard it in the words — of young women in some of Egypt’s poorest, most tradition-bound villages.

In fact, these awakenings have been happening since 2002, when the project was founded. Then, as now, it was funded by a special pool of donors, separate from other Coptic Orphans programs. It operates from the principle that, in order to truly be the salt of the earth, Christians must be proactive about loving their neighbors, as Christ taught us.

Lara, a Valuable Girl in Luxor, describes her own awakening this way: “I’ve learned that girls and boys are equals, and that there’s no difference between us. I’ve also learned about my rights and duties.”

Awakenings like Lara’s come despite huge obstacles. As she says: “In my village, we have solid customs and traditions that girls shouldn’t finish their education, and we’re not even allowed to go out of the house. Most of the girls in my village can only make it till middle school, and then they’re forced to get married.”

“And then the only thing anyone cares about is that they give birth to boys!” adds Lara, who has now spent over a year as a Big Sister in the project’s mentoring program.

Even more exciting is when these awakenings lead to action, as they have in Lara’s case. Now 22 years old, she has made her point to the doubters.

“I’m older than all my brothers, and I’ve always felt that my father wished I’d been a boy in order to help him farm and be his backbone,” she says. “I was like any other girl — I just used to listen to how he felt about it without doing anything about it!”

After learning of her own equality and rights, Lara says she became more confident.

“I decided to go talk to my father and asked to help him on the farm. His jaw dropped — he didn’t know what to say, and I insisted that he give me a chance to prove myself.”

“I went with him and I drove the tractor, harvested the crops, mowed the field, and even fed the cattle. My father was amazed at what I could do; I’ve practically proved to him that girls are the equal of boys and even better!”

Not content with the horizons of the family farm, Lara has set her sights on higher education. Since finding her own confidence — and her father’s — she has moved on to study graphic design at a local college.

This is how the Valuable Girl Project sets about and succeeds in transforming girls and young women. Involving them in the Big-Little Sister mentoring is only the first step; beyond that are leadership training and coaching that instill even greater confidence and self-worth.

The results become evident in how the girls think of themselves and others.

For example, monitoring the attitudes of the Valuable Girls over time reveals that nearly every one experiences an increased sense of self-efficacy — the belief in their capacity to act and thereby achieve what they want to achieve. Overwhelmingly, they also report increased agreement with the concept that males and females should have equal access to social, economic, and political opportunities.

These changes in attitudes are crucial to transforming not just individual lives, but also communities and societies. As Lara says:

“I’ve proved to my neighbors and other community members that girls are not weak and useless; they’re human beings of equal value and have the same rights and duties.”

Lara and our Valuable Girls are claiming the same rights and opportunities as their fellow citizens. In doing so, they’ll make a better world for their daughters!

Coptic Orphans Launches B’edaya Microfinance Initiative Round III

Bedaya ceremony
Widows celebrate receiving their B’edaya microfinance loan packages at a private ceremony in Luxor.

I’m excited to share this news with the whole Coptic Orphans family: Round III of the B’edaya microfinance initiative for mothers has officially launched!

Coptic Orphans recently held ceremonies around Egypt honoring the 42 widowed mothers who will receive LE243,500 (US$27,400) in microloans for income-generating projects.

These mothers are heroes to all of us at Coptic Orphans, and by God’s grace, we’re honored to provide them with both microloans and coaching in entrepreneurial skills to develop their inborn perseverance, ingenuity, and business-savvy.

An Egyptian woman who wants to start a business faces barriers that would make Donald Trump cry. But Egypt’s widows face even huger challenges. How they dress, who they talk to, where they go — all of these are subject to scrutiny and control based on tradition. Frequently, they can’t even leave the house to work, even if their children are malnourished.

It’s exactly these hostile conditions that B’edaya is designed to handle — the everyday life of some of the most disadvantaged widows in Egypt, particularly those in remote villages. It tailors small loans to the needs of the mothers of orphans. The aim is to give them an opportunity to generate income, more ability to feed their children, and more control of their lives.

The 42 mothers were selected from among a pool of 143 widows whose children are enrolled in Coptic Orphans’ education-focused Not Alone program. Seven of the mothers are receiving B’edaya loans for the second time, after running and expanding their income-generating projects, and one is receiving a loan for the third time.

“When my husband died, I felt alone and helpless. I was about to sell his photography studio, because according to the traditions in my village, as a widow, I can’t run the business and deal with the public,” one B’edaya client from Kom El Dab’, Menoufeya said at the ceremony.

“After I enrolled my kids with Not Alone, Coptic Orphans representatives encouraged me not to sell the business, but instead to stand up for my right to work and raise my kids with pride and dignity,” she said. “So I re-opened the studio and ran the business to ensure a dignified life for my kids. With this new loan, I’m going to buy a digital camera so I can photograph weddings, which is very profitable in our area.”

Coptic Orphans launched B’edaya Round III in March, in order to honor International Women’s Day (March 8) and Egypt’s Mother’s Day (March 21), with the following three ceremonies:

• Ma3adi, March 4, to honor 12 mothers from Lower Egypt and Greater Cairo
• Bani Mazar, Minya, March 11, to honor 18 mothers from Middle Egypt
• Luxor, March 18, to honor 12 mothers from Upper Egypt

The ceremonies represent the culmination of nine months of preparatory work to ensure proper planning, training, and an effective selection process. At the events, loan recipients received their checks, took part in basic financial training, and were familiarized with additional details about B’edaya. The events also provided an opportunity for the mothers to network, share experiences, and trade contact information. Previous loan recipients appeared onstage to present their advice and experiences to the Round III participants.

“This is my second time taking out a B’edaya loan,” said a client from Ezbet El Nakhl, Cairo. “I started my first project two years ago with a B’edaya loan to sell bedding and bed sheets.”

“Back then, I was so shy and afraid to take the risk, but the Coptic Orphans representative encouraged me and I succeeded in overcoming my fears and establishing a strong network of clients,” she said. “From the income I generated, I was able to pay back my first loan, and renovate my kitchen, bathroom, and living room. This made me feel proud of myself for the first time. I’m taking out the second loan to expand my business by adding the sale of women’s accessories. I’m much better now at marketing and communicating with my customers, so they’ve ask me to sell them these things.”

B’edaya microloans are offered at 0 % interest for 26 months, with the first six months considered a grace period for loan repayment, followed by six equal installments spaced four months apart. The loans disbursed to each recipient vary in size according to the amount requested in the application process, up to a maximum of LE7,000. The amount is also subject to the assessment of the selection committee, which is made up of the Coptic Orphans program management team.

The LE7,000 ceiling is a significant increase compared to Round II, when the total amount of loans dispersed was LE91,000 disbursed to 29 mothers, with a maximum sum of LE4,000 and a 14-month repayment period.

B’edaya Round III encompasses 13 type of projects ranging from selling livestock feed (4), selling groceries (11), selling women’s accessories (2), selling fabrics, bedding, and sheets (1), selling cleaning products (1), raising and selling cattle (5), raising and selling poultry (3), selling machine-sewn products (8) running a photo studio (1), selling upholstery (1), selling shoes and accessories (2), running an ironing service (1), and styling hair (2).

B’edaya Round III activities in 2016 and beyond will include quarterly home visits to the entrepreneurial mother by Coptic Orphans staff and volunteers, who will monitor the progress of the projects and provide regular coaching.

B’edaya shows what we can do when we pull together, as a community, and set our minds on achieving dignity and self-sufficiency — not dependence on charity — for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Children who grow up in a household where B’edaya is working can see their mother in a whole new light, as a creative, hard-working businesswoman. This can make a huge difference for the whole family!

I’ll keep you posted as B’edaya unfolds further. All of us, as the Coptic Orphans family, are grateful to God for the blessing of working alongside these strong, determined mothers. They are role models for their kids!