From where I stand: “I hope that no woman or girl will ever hesitate to learn a new skill because the experience could change their lives, the way it changed mine”

Date: Thursday, February 18, 2021

Originally published on UN Women Egypt’s website.

Mayada Mohamed ElShalaby, 36-year-old is a Syrian refugee living in Cairo with her family. Mayada is a former Amigurumi trainee and one of the current Amigurumi artists and trainers at “Vandi”, which is a social enterprise that UN Women Egypt collaborates with to provide skills training and employment opportunities for refugee and Egyptian women. ElShalaby talks to us about her professional journey and her personal ambitions.

ElShalaby (in the middle) inside Vandi’s office along with her colleagues. Photo: UN Women/Mohamed AbdelHameed

ElShalaby (in the middle) inside Vandi’s office along with her colleagues. Photo: UN Women/Mohamed AbdelHameed.

“Three years ago, I was looking for an opportunity to improve my crochet skills and supplement my income. I asked around and heard about Vandi through my friends, so I applied to take the Amigurumi course and I was very happy that I got accepted. Through my training at Vandi, I was able to take my knowledge and experience to a professional level. For example, I was introduced to new methods, tools and types of materials and I learned how to properly use them.

What I loved the most about the training experience is that the team at Vandi was very encouraging and supportive. I remember that when we used to perform well in the training, they [Vandi team] would give us gifts and certificates of achievements to encourage us to learn more. After I finished the training, I started working at Vandi and the trainers noticed that I have passion for continuous learning and for teaching others, so they encouraged me to prepare myself to become a trainer.

Thanks to their [the trainers’] mentorship, after a year of learning and working, I became a trainer. Facilitating trainings became my most favorite part of the job because it allows me to share my knowledge with others and to improve my own experience because the trainees’ questions often help me consider new perspectives. Being a trainer also enhances my confidence because I have to talk to a large group of people and that requires a lot of courage and preparations.

It makes me feel very happy and fulfilled to know that I am not only learning new skills, but I am also helping my sisters [fellow community members] in developing their skills and finding new passions. Even during the COVID-19 crisis, we were able to continue to work from home, generate income and connect with one another, which helped me in overcoming the mental challenges that the crisis imposed.

My personal dream is to become a great trainer like those who trained me because I want to help all women to follow their ambitions. I hope that no woman or girl will ever hesitate to learn a new skill because the experience could change their lives, the way it changed mine.”

SDG 1: No poverty SDG 5 The collaboration with Vandi falls under UN Women’s “Leadership, Empowerment, Access and Protection” (LEAP) programme, which aims to support refugee and Egyptian women such as Mayada through capacity-building, vocational training and access to financial services. The programme is implemented in partnership with the National Council for Women and UNHCR and is generously funded by the Government of Japan. This story reflects the programme’s efforts to contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1: “End poverty in all its forms everywhere” by contributing to the financial independence of refugee and Egyptian women. The programme also contributes to the achievement of SDG 5: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” as it addresses the gendered challenges that these women face in their quest for financial independence.