Turning the page and writing one’s own story

More than 16 million women living in Egypt lack basic reading and writing skills, a fact that highlights deep-rooted and persistent issues within Egyptian culture. Things like child marriage and early pregnancy are keeping pencils and books out of reach for too many young women.

The real life impact of illiteracy

Manal is a 30 year-old woman living in Egypt. She is full of life and dreams but never dared do anything with those dreams because she couldn’t read or write. People began taking advantage of her. They would steal her money knowing she couldn’t read the price tags. She felt ashamed and hopeless.

“My husband took all the decisions,” said Manal. “Every time I tried to have my opinion heard, he would tell me ‘You don’t even know how to write your name!’”

Fatima, a mother of 4, couldn’t help her young children with their homework. “I was very embarrassed,” Fatima explained. “Every time I went to school to pick up my children’s grades the teacher would make me feel guilty because I wasn’t able to help with homework.”

Illiteracy affects a person’s social, economic and political standing, and – maybe most crucial –limits your ability to participate in your community.

A time for change and empowerment

Women and their children sit and listen to an instructor

A group of women attend a literacy training session in Egypt.

Women and girls like Manal and Fatima were encouraged to join a group called Reflect. The Plan-supported program helps young women receive a basic education in a safe learning environment.

Trained community volunteers unite women at community centres or other safe spaces close to home, as cultural and social norms often don’t allow them to go far from their home. In their journey towards literacy and empowerment, these women have learned many new skills about their world and about themselves.

The most important education of all

First and foremost, the Reflect program teaches women to read and write. But over time, the talent and potential of each woman will shine as they develop the self-esteem and confidence they need to improve their lives and participate as active members of society.

In 2014, 391 Reflect programs were actively working across the country, empowering close to 6,000 women from disadvantaged backgrounds. In the last year, the pass rate was 70%.

Finally, an opinion that matters

Girls hold diplomas

Young girls proudly display the diplomas they received from the Reflect program.

For so many women, Reflect has finally provided them with a voice of their own. For example, Rasha, a young mother of twins, can recount with emotion the first time she was able to vote. Because she learned to write her name and read ballots, Rasha was able to voice her opinion.

Manal can spend money at the market with confidence, and Fatima can help her children with their homework. It may not sound like much, but to these women, it means the world.

Too often, in countries like Egypt, women and girls are deprived an education, and struggle to find employment or a way to vote. Through Plan-supported programs like Reflect, women in Egypt can access better opportunities and a brighter future.

You can help even more women learn basic reading and writing skills.

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