On March 8, the international women’s day, SEKEM organized for the second time a special event for girls and boys as well, referring to gender equality in working life.
“One day I will be what I want to be. I will be like a bird and will snatch my existence out of my nothingness.” These motivating words, written by the Arabian poet Mahmoud Darwish, were quoted by a SEKEM student girl when opening the Girls’ Day 2016 celebration in the theater of the SEKEMs school.
In the context of SEKEMs comprehensive Gender Strategy for a Balanced Society, a Girls’ Day has been held on the SEKEM Farm for the second time to encourage girls to consider technical and mechanic jobs as well. “Women are pillars of every society”, says Gamal Sayed, chairperson of SEKEM Development Foundation. “And to build a balanced and sustainable society, men should help women to take their full rights in education as well as in work life”, he stated during his opening speech.
Celebration and practical activities
But the Girls’ Day was not only a celebration. Practical actions took place by a cooperation between SEKEMs School and the Vocational Training Center (VTC). In various workshops, such as carpentry, plumbing, mechanics or electronic technology, female pupils were invited to experience the contents of the technical and mechanic professions that are usually occupied by men by themselves. “I was not aware that I can do plumbing work”, Zeinab Helal says, who attended the plumbing workshop for the first time. After she joined the general tour through all workshops at last year’s Girls’ Day, she decided to do an internship this year, three weeks before March 8.
Last year’s Girls’ Day showed strong outcomes, including Zeinab’s internship. “The most noticeable change for me this year is the increasing number of girls joining the electricity workshop”, says Hanem Mahmoud, the first female teacher at the electric engineering department in SEKEMs Vocational Training Center. Fatma, one of the interns in her department: “We realized that there are no differences between a boy and a girl when we were involved in technical stuff. We just have to do it.”
The mechanic workshop also raised the female pupils’ interest. “My dad repairs cars, motorcycles and other machineries. I used to watch him and always wanted to experience this technical job by myself”, Shaimaa says, revealing her passion. “At the beginning my father refused to teach me and told me that it is a job for males only.” However, Shaimaa didn’t give up and is now regularly supporting her father in his daily work. At the Girls’ Day the confident girl told her schoolmates about her experiences and motivated them to take up the profession of a mechanic.
“I am proud of my successful carpenter wife!” says Medhat about his wife Asmaa
Apart from the internal activities, SEKEM invited a female Egyptian carpenter and her husband from Cairo to encourage the students and tell them about her unique career. Asmaa Megahed used to watch her husband Medhat in his carpentry workshop and found out that she likes to deal with wood as well. “I believe in my existence as a human being, who is able to do any job”, Asmaa says. “Maybe it is still strange in Egypt to see a woman working as a carpenter, but we are able to change the society by recalling our human rights”. Her husband Medhat was the main motivation for Asmaa to start her career, as he encouraged and taught her. “Our wives never have holidays from raising our children or doing the daily housework. Therefore, it is important that we, the men, support them in doing what they strive for”, Medhat emphasized during his speech on stage. “I am really proud of Asmaa, my successful carpenter wife!”
As gender equality is not only about empowering women, but in the same time encouraging boys to take over professions that are mainly carried out by women, male SEKEM students were engaged in the Girls’ Day’s activities as well. Accordingly, boys made internships in SEKEMs Kindergarten and the School for Children with Special Needs. “I experienced how much efforts it requires to raise children. It is really a tough, but in the same time a beautiful job”, one of the participating boys comments on his activity in the Kindergarten.
With traditional rhythms of a SEKEM student girl playing Tabla (an Egyptian instrument known to be played by men) and the accompanying claps of the audience the wonderful day on the SEKEM Farm ended. The Girls’ Day conveyed how powerful girls are and which capabilities they have to do whatever they want. This was not only shown by the technical professions provided to girls, but also the artistic activities, which are part of gender equality as much as they are included to SEKEMs holistic development approach.