11/19/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – The ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood has defined many villages in Upper Egypt. Violent attacks against Christians are common, but persecution here is defined by more than violence. It is the steady drip of discrimination that locks Christians outside the door of opportunity, leaving many trapped inside an endless cycle of severe generational poverty.
The difficulties that Christian women face are especially severe. Many women are married at a young age, often to deter Muslim suitors and provide better financial stability for their families. Young motherhood leads to lost educational opportunities. Since their husbands are much older, Christian women often find themselves widowed at a young age or need to provide for the family since their husbands no longer can. With their education cut short, opportunities for income are limited.
ICC’s Hope House program seeks dynamic solutions to these underlying persecution issues. Many of the children attending Hope House’s after-school educational program had no one at home to support them. The fathers were usually absent; the mothers couldn’t read.
For this reason, ICC began a program that targeted local women whose education was incomplete. The Life School program taught them literacy and provided each with a vocational skill that allows them to establish an independent source of income. The results were life-changing. In the words of one woman who attended, “This Life School is priceless.”
Many of the women expressed some embarrassment when first starting Life School, due to their incomplete education. But they soon realized that they were not alone, and were overwhelmed by the kindness of ICC’s teachers, who patiently taught them new skills.
Nawara was one such woman who was amazed by this. She recalled, “I was pronouncing words wrong, and I didn’t know how to write. I was shy to ask anybody to help me to read and write, but here I started learning, and they helped me without feeling shy.”
Many shared common stories of how their education was interrupted. “I was deprived of an education,” recalled Rasha. “My father was poor, and I could not continue. Then my father had a stroke and became half-paralyzed. I had to help him in raising sheep. As the years went by, I was watching my friends go to school, and I wished to be able to go with them, but this did not happen. I envied them, and [then] I got married.”
The Life School program was hard work, but Rasha knew the priceless value the program offered. “Then I heard about the Life School, and I was so happy that my dream can come true! I could learn to read and write! I have been through hard moments where people would look down on me, but now I am proud that I wake up early and go with my notebook to Life School. I am learning a lot. I heard about the Life School, and I was so happy that my dream can come true! I could learn to read and write! I have been through hard moments where people would look down on me, but now I am proud that I wake up early and go with my notebook to Life School.”
The broader community took notice of how Life School was positively impacting women’s lives. It began blessing the women’s families in unexpected ways. For example, Hana’s family was thrust into deeper poverty right before Life School began. “My husband lost his car and all the money he invested in this project, so we are a poor family,” she said. “My son is 10 years old, and he goes to school, but I had to send him to help in the farms to get [paid]. Now, I am learning how to read and write, and also sewing… I can help in providing income to my family.”
Souzan had a similar story. “I didn’t know how to write or read, and I could not help my children at school. Now, when my children go to Hope House and take education lessons, I can review with them what they took. I can read the medicine’s names… I also started learning how to sew, and by God’s grace, I could buy a sewing machine and help my husband with the monthly expenses.”
For those who couldn’t buy a sewing machine, such as Nawara, ICC provided a microfinance loan so that they could establish their own business. The combined literacy and vocational skill classes provided each woman with a sense of freedom they had never before experienced.
“Now I love to read in front of people, and my husband is proud of me!” marveled Afaf. The discovery of having something unique to offer their families has been life-changing for many of these women.
“This Life School is very good, and I feel that I am among my family. I am so happy,” added Reda. “I didn’t go to school, but I learned here how to read and write. I went and applied for an exam in literacy, and I took the certificate. I applied to go back to school!”
The Life School program was completed this past Spring, but the impact on the community continues to be felt. This newfound confidence among the mothers has increased their dedication to sending children to ICC’s Hope House educational center. As the center’s coordinator said, “Life School was great for Hope House because we widened our circle. It made mothers trust in Hope House teachings, and [now they] send their children to us for learning.”
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