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Supporting Sinai Bedouin Women through Agriculture and Handicrafts

This success story written by Yasmeen Atta, founder of  the Youth Sinai Foundation for Development and Human Rights and the Youth Sinai Development Company, is part of the "Young women and Youth's Gender Perspectives in Agricultural Development" series that spotlight young professionals' experiences for women's empowerment in agricultural development. From research to private sector, mass media to civil society work, YPARD 2015 Gender series features, every month, young "gender champions" from different regions of the world. This series is part of YPARD work as special youth catalyst in the GAP : Gender in Agriculture Partnership.

I was born in a rural Bedouin community in North Sinai Governorate, Egypt. My older brother graduated from the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences Department of Rural Development, and received a PhD in rural development. Thanks to him and to my rural background, I got interested in agriculture since I was little.

My brother helped me to integrate and work in different civil society institutions. In 2000, I was Program Coordinator at the Young Muslim Foundation. Afterwards I started working for the Bedouin women's programs requesting the different identification documents such as the birth certificate, national card number, etc.

The customs and traditions of the Bedouin community don’t allow women to work outside home. Women education opportunities are quite limited, as well as the practice of handicrafts which contributes to develop their mental and manual abilities.

Being a woman in a Bedouin community is not easy. But despite the economic and gender difficulties that women face here I’m positive about the possibility of increasing their participation as key development actors within their communities.  

Building the Youth Sinai Foundation for Development and Human Rights

Yasmeen Atta, YPARD member

Yasmeen Atta talking at the Second Preparatory Meeting for the 2015 Global Congress in November, 2014

In 2012 I founded the Youth Sinai Foundation for Development and Human Rights. My main objective was to support young women’s rights as relevant economic and political actors. I began a series of training courses for the rehabilitation of women focusing particularly in their working skills and in increasing their participation level within the community.

Within this foundation, we run out three different types of programmes. First we raise awareness around the definition of legal rights for women who are in the possession of a special agricultural project. Thus we help them in collecting and filling all the papers and documents required in order for them to undertake their agricultural activities and obtain the financial support both from the Development and Agricultural Credit Bank and NGOs.

Women are also trained in non-traditional agricultural activities, including: modern irrigation methods; cultivation of olives, medicinal and aromatic plants;  methods of manufacturing, filling and packaging medicinal plants; different ways of marketing; etc.

As we have extended our work to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and Lake Bardawil, we have started working on the integration of women in the field of fisheries through a training on the fishing industry networks and methods of peeling, packaging and marketing of shrimps.

Our third and so far last programme consists of providing economic support to rural women by giving them raw materials necessary for the implementation of handicrafts and providing opportunities for marketing through different exhibitions. We also offer them financial support through small loans for the implementation of agricultural income-generating activities.

This year, we publicized our foundation and our work with rural and agricultural women in the Directorate of Manpower. We hope this will help our women in the provision of all production requirements and support in the various issues they face in their daily lives.

Beyond Agriculture - Youth Sinai Development Company

Sinai youth FoundationBesides our projects related to rural women in agriculture, women are being trained in needlework and handmade products’ creation. I’ve realised this is the best way to provide rural women in Sinai region with economic support as they can work at home and produce very good quality and sophisticated materials.

We also work in raising awareness among these women in the important role they play in the society. We encourage them to take part in politics and show them the benefits for society when women take an active role in their communities.

By working and participating with Sinai Bedouin women I have discovered that handmade products, despite the quality and beauty cannot be sold without marketing. In response to this I founded a private company in 2013 called Youth Sinai Development Company.

One of its main objectives is to help women in the Sinai region to market their products and handicrafts in order to increase their income and help them to be economically independent and able to support their families in times of financial crisis. This company also supports their ability to participate in all walks of life especially in politics.

I dream of giving the best support and assistance programs to the Sinai rural women in the production of handicrafts Sinai distinguished with my work at the Youth Sinai Foundation for Development and Human Rights by offering larger loan programs, training courses and exchange visits with other foundations for experience and knowledge sharing.

I also hope to help women in the Youth Sinai Development Company in marketing women's products all around the region first and then all over the globe!

Click here to read:

  1. Shaping my future in Gender, Agriculture and Global Development, by Moses Owiny, Project Officer with the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET);
  2. Empowering Women in Agriculture through Mentoring, by Michelle Jambui, Fulbright scholar graduate student;
  3. "While frustrating at times, challenges do make me far more passionate and determined", by Afrina Choudhury, Gender Specialist at the WorldFish;
  4. Agriculture has managed to change my career, by Wouedjie Alice-Norraa lawyer who works at the Cameroon youth Initiative for Rural Development, CAMYIRD;
  5. A young spirit in search of change, by Anauim Valerín Pérez, a young journalist and environmental activist; 
  6. AltroPaesaggio - Empowering Gypsy Women through Urban Agricultureby Luisa Cartesio, coordinator of the project "Orticulturom" within the association AltroPaesaggio