Girl Power Egypt is turning volunteer work upside down

By Shadden El Banna, Identity Magazine October 29, 2014

Even though volunteer work has witnessed a significant growth in Egypt during the past decade, we can all agree that it has changed to take many different forms. One form that we have seen is sports mentoring for the underprivileged; and that is what Girl Power Egypt aims at. Girl Power is a youth development initiative that uses sports as a tool for development, social change and gender equality. The program came to life with a group of female former and current basketball players headed by Founder Hayam Essam, who we had the pleasure to meet, and completed by the powerful co-founders, Nancy Mourad, Mirna Taha, Omneya El Essawy and Dalia Khereba

How did the program come to life?

I have been thinking about doing a community service sports project for girls for years but what really inspired me to start was that in September 2013 I was selected to represent Egypt in the “Global Sports Mentoring Program” which is an exchange program sponsored by ESPN and the US department of state as part of an effort to empower women and girls all over the world through sports. The program brought together 17 women from all over the world to a mentor-ship program in which they will work with their mentors – who are top female executives in the sports industry in the US – on an action plan with the goal of creating additional sports opportunities for underserved women and girls in their home communities. Girl Power was the action plan I presented in the program and when I got back to Egypt I started implementing it with the help of dedicated volunteers.


What do you do?

Our main target is underprivileged girls ages 9 to 14 who have never played any kind of sports before and we reach out to them through partnerships with other NGOs that are well established in their local undeserved communities and that are willing to offer our sports programs as part of their activities. Our aim is to create sports participation opportunities for those girls, claim special safe spaces for them and overcome the economic, social and cultural barriers of their participation in sports in an effort to empower them, impact their lives and develop their characters.

Girl Power offer special basketball programs with a child centered curriculum that integrates sporting skills with life and social skills in addition to health and wellness education. The programs will create an environment that inspires girls to learn and lead.


What is it that you are trying to teach the girls or is it just basketball?

Our objective is not only sports but we are using sports as a tool to reach other social goals. Sport creates a great learning environment, through playing a team sport the girls will learn valuable life and social skills that will prepare them to face the challenges they are facing in their communities and will develop their self-esteem, self-confidence and the way they see themselves and their roles in their communities. Sport is a force for gender equality and through sport the girls will learn about their rights and their abilities to be leaders and assume roles of responsibility in the future. Also through sports the girls will learn about sportsmanship ethics and values which they will shadow in all aspects of their lives and will pass it on to their friends and to their children in the future. What we also try to teach the girls are nutrition and health tips and habits that will help them have a healthier life.


Are there any entities supporting you?

We won an award from the “Global Sports Mentoring Program” which funded our pilot project. We then secured two partnerships with Educate-Me foundation and Nebny foundation, two very well established NGOs working in underserved communities in Al Talbeya and Mansheyet Nasser who are supporting us. We also rely on kind donations.


Where do you see Girl Power Egypt in the future? What are your future plans?

We are hoping that in the near future Girl Power basketball programs become sustainable programs in NGOs working in underprivileged areas and that we can reach other places outside Cairo in other governorates and have a bigger impact on women and girls in Egypt. Our future dream would be having our own youth development center and our own basketball courts where we can train female coaches and serve thousands of underprivileged girls.


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