From a very young age, Lamiaa knew she wanted a career and was determined to overcome the challenges imposed by culture and tradition that would prevent her from achieving her dream of becoming a working woman. Growing up in upper Egypt, young women are rarely provided with the opportunity to pursue an education or seek training or participation at professional development workshops and events. In fact, there are almost no opportunities for professional development outside of the big city centers.
She knew her efforts had to start at home and she began persuading her parents and talking to them about the importance of education and women’s participation in the workforce. This was not an easy task, and they rejected the idea of her traveling alone as a woman, to the capital city, Cairo, so Lamiaa asked them to accompany her. The more they traveled with her to Cairo and witnessed her participate and excel in professional development workshops, the easier it became for them to trust her and share her passion and belief in her dream of becoming a successful career woman.
But Lamiaa was well aware that not all parents are like hers and that the obstacles that faced her, continue to face many other women in upper Egypt. This is when she decided she will dedicate her time and energy to support and empower young women in her community to pursue education and professional development. Seeking a better understanding of their unique challenges, Lamiaa put on the researcher hat and started with a series of surveys and interviews among the young women in her community.
The interviews confirmed what Lamiaa already knew. Young women in rural areas were hungry for education and career advancement but did not know where to start or how to confront the obstacles posed by traditional and cultural beliefs about the place of women in a conservative society. Making a difference in people’s lives is something that Lamiaa always aspired to do, so when faced with an opportunity to empower young women in her community, she knew she had to act and act fast.
Lamiaa decided to create a social initiative called ‘Tamkanai,’ which aims to support young women in upper Egypt by providing professional and personal development training where they will acquire not only the technical skills to advance their careers, but also the personal skills to help them with self-confidence, communication, adaptability and work ethic. What makes this initiative unique is that it’s entirely female-led and managed. The majority of the trainers and volunteers are women, which serves as a source of inspiration for the young trainees who could see themselves in these relatable role models.
The program is currently taking place online due to COVID-19 restrictions, but the first series of workshops will serve 50 young female students and fresh graduates from Upper Egypt. Additionally, the initiative created an online community on Facebook to ensure ongoing communication and follow-up with past participants, and where job and training opportunities are frequently shared.
The goal by the end of the program is for them to gain the skills to pursue work opportunities, enhance their ability to earn income and achieve economic independence and work on creating equal access for women to the labor market. Peace First’s incredible Fellows in Residence for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) provided Lamia with customized mentoring and guidance throughout every stage of his project. A mini-grant from Peace First allowed the TamaKani تمكني team to establish the first program that supports and empower women in upper Egypt.
You can also watch Lamiaa talk about her project with our Fellow in Residence for MENA, Yousra Mshmsh