In her own Hands: New opportunities for women artisans in Upper Egypt

Photo Collage for Shaimaa, showcasing her needlework in Upper Egypt. UNDP/Fatma Elzahraa Yassin
Photo Collage for Shaimaa, showcasing her needlework in Upper Egypt. UNDP/Fatma Elzahraa Yassin

Shaimaa, walked down the room in a Cairo handicrafts exhibition, held her long needle and black cloth. She sat down, put the thread into the needle and beautifully drew very fine silver threads in a black cloth to form a well-crafted shawl, reflecting the genuine Egyptian style. Shaimaa Abdo El Naggar, 30 years-old, is one of the talented artisans in Upper Egypt, who worked for years in this market yet with limited resources and training. She struggled for long to educate and train herself, acquire new skills in patchwork/needlework, overcome the many trade barriers and promote her products within the local community.

For many in Egypt, handicrafts are an essential income-generating activity. Shaimaa like many others needed a sustainable income to support herself and her family and secure a decent living. She lives in Qena governorate; one of the poor governorates in Egypt; known for its low income, poor infrastructure and lack of social services. Nevertheless, Shaimaa has been an active contributor, playing a significant role in work and family life. However, she needed more support and training for her products to be profitable for a decent living.

Highlights:

  • Many women in Upper Egypt, like Shaimaa, need skills training and job opportunities to earn a sustainable income to support herself and her family and secure a decent living.
  • The ENID project carried out training in various employment skills including agriculture, fish farming and handicraft for some 240 people as well as training for 89 governmental and NGO staff on data collection, participatory programming and sustainable agriculture.

Through the Egypt Network for Integrated Development (ENID) project, a five-year initiative to develop viable and sustainable development and employment opportunities in South Upper Egypt, many women and girls received vocational training and skills to improve their handicrafts product lines. Shaimaa, among other women and girls, took part in a handicrafts training programme for women of female-headed households. Through the initiative, seven new product lines including painting, patchwork, beads and glass casting were introduced. In addition, ENID provided trainings in various employment skills including agriculture, fish farming and handicraft for some 240 people as well as additional training for 89 governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGO) staff on data collection, participatory programming and sustainable agriculture.

As part of this programme, Shaimaa was chosen as one of the 10 Egyptian local artisans to go on a mission to India to enhance their skills and promote their work globally. Her life has completely transformed since this trip.

“I thought I will go to India; sell and market my products, yet when I was there, I realized how much I was missing many learning opportunities throughout my life. I saw new skills, techniques and was exposed to tremendous number of ideas that now I can incorporate in my work.” said Shaimaa. 

The project is expected to scale up in the coming period with more prospects to market the products online, locally and globally. Moving forward with the initiative, it is currently expanding to cover more poor villages in Suhag governorate and the model has plans to be duplicated in other areas of Upper Egypt as well.

ENID is implemented through generous contributions from the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Sawiris Foundation for Social Development, Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and is nationally implemented in cooperation with the Ministry of International Cooperation.

The initiative implements an integrated development approach to generate new income, enhance food security and improve basic/public services for the marginalized communities and people of Upper Egypt.