Neqdar Nesharek encourages young women’s economic participation and leadership in rural Upper Egypt.
Young women in rural Upper Egypt have limited educational, health, social, and employment opportunities. Between 2001 and 2013, the Council’s Ishraq project worked to address these issues by providing girls with literacy training, life skills, nutrition education, sports, and financial education. Many girls and young women who were enrolled in Ishraq have gone on to formal education. However, a significant number have wanted to use what they learned in the program to get a job instead of going to school. Unfortunately, restrictive cultural norms in Egypt often prevent young women from working, and as a result the employment rate of young girls in rural Upper Egypt is very low—only about 6 percent. Young women who want to work lack the practical skills necessary to be successfully employed, as well as the community support to make this possible.
The Council’s Neqdar Nesharek project (which means “We Can Participate” in Arabic) operates in 30 rural villages where young women are especially vulnerable to economic marginalization. The project aims to provide a safe space where young women can find the support they need to seek employment or start their own businesses. Neqdar Nesharek activities include life skills and business education, vocational training as well as training in problem-solving and civic engagement. The program also works with community members to promote understanding about the importance of women’s economic and social participation.
In collaboration with IZA and funds from the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Population Council conducted an impact evaluation study to determine the impact of Neqdar Nesharek on young women’s employment outcomes and aspirations, empowerment, intra-household decision-making capacity, and attitudes towards gender roles. Key findings:
- The intervention resulted in a strong and highly significant impact on labor market outcomes, economic aspirations, and business knowledge of young women in treated villages compared to control villages.
- Young women's economic empowerment can be increased by combining hard and soft skills, in the form of business, vocational, and life skills training, with civic education and guidance on how to start a business or become employed.
Some 4,500 young women between the ages of 16 and 29 have participated in Neqdar Nesharek. To date, more than one third of Neqdar participants have been employed or started their own business.