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Despite the troubling news and rising concern about Egypt, the women who make up the Women’s Initiative Fellowship are making strides toward improving their society. The George W. Bush Institute is proud to launch a blog series that spotlights the courageous and innovative Egyptian women who are members of the 2013 Women’s Initiative Fellowship class. Over the next several months, the Women’s Initiative will highlight the accomplishments of these remarkable women. The first in this series celebrates three women who are contributing to the betterment of their communities amidst the unrest and extremely challenging circumstances they are facing in Egypt today. Building upon the leadership training and skills they received during the U.S. portion of the Fellowship, the Fellows are furthering the development and advancement of Egypt and leaving a significant mark on society.
Jeanne Guirrguis, Head, Gender Development at Media Arts for Development
Jeanne is Head of the Gender Department at Media Arts for Development (MADEV) in Egypt, an organization that uses media production and training as a way to create positive social change and promote rights-based development. Through her work, Jeanne works to create social change by using media to educate and empower women. Jeanne holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, as well as a Professional Counseling diploma.
Upon returning to Egypt following the U.S. portion of the Women’s Initiative Fellowship, Jeanne has hosted four training sessions with 124 men, women and girls. Two of these noteworthy sessions are highlighted below:
The first session brought together 48 young girls, ages 15-18, from the slums in Cairo. The session addressed the importance of healthy relationships with the goal of lowering the recurrence of emotional abuse, domestic and sexual violence and gender discrimination. Jeanne’s team was pleasantly surprised to find how quickly the women opened up to each other in their breakout groups, hungry to discuss the topics at hand. As Jeanne observed, “No one had allowed them to express their needs before and still respect them.” The training afforded these young women with a safe space to discuss the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships without fear of repercussion.
The second session targeted 20 illiterate women ages 17-50 from local villages. This session was designed to outline the steps to gain an ID card, an impossible dream for many women. In the Middle East, an ID card is synonymous with belonging to society – it affords citizens basic rights, including a voice in elections. Jeanne’s team began the session by outlining the necessary steps in the cumbersome process. As they delivered the information, they realized that the women were grappling with the issue of their worth and value. The trainers then began addressing why the women are worthy of even applying for an ID card. Through interactive tools like drawing, film and pictures, they helped convey ideas of self-worth and confidence. By the end of the session, the women left with something even greater than an ID card – they left with the knowledge that they were important, valuable and that they belonged.
In the midst of Egypt’s unrest, it is heartening to hear reports such as these. We believe these women will continue to play a powerful role in effecting change in their communities and are proud of their accomplishments. Individually, these women are strong; as a class, they form a resilient circle with a powerful vision for the future of their beloved country.
Betsy Martin, Regional Development Director, joined the George W. Bush Presidential Center in 2013. A member of the development team, she is responsible for building relationships with corporations, foundations, and other non-profit organizations. She works closely with Bush Institute program directors to obtain support for projects in education reform, economic growth, human freedom, global health, women's empowerment, and aid to U.S. military veterans.
Most recently, Martin served as Deputy Director of the Women's Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute. In this role, she was responsible for setting and implementing the vision of the Women's Initiative which seeks to empower women worldwide to lead in their communities and countries. During her tenure, Martin directed a year-long leadership program for rising women leaders in the Middle East and North Africa and highlighted stories of hope in Afghanistan through the publishing and promotion of We Are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope.
Prior to joining the Bush Center, Martin served as a Senior Event Coordinator for the Washington Speakers Bureau where she managed speaking engagements and advance for Mrs. Laura Bush, Jenna Bush Hager, Barbara Bush, and Governor Jeb Bush. Martin served in the Bush Administration as Scheduler and Trip Coordinator to Mrs. Laura Bush.
A native of Mississippi, Martin graduated from Samford University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies. She serves on the Advisory Board for the Akola Project.
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