By Sama el-Feky
On Saturday June 6, the Heya Masr Initiative celebrated the graduation of fifteen girls in Istabl Anter, an underprivileged area in Cairo. During the ceremony, they were congratulated for their progress in the Heya Masr programme.
According to Moody Demetry, the founder and the director of Heya Masr, the initiative’s mission is to gather young Egyptian girls aged nine to eighteen, and build stronger characters that can challenge and survive any circumstances they face, be it in their career, school or general society.
Demetry’s inspiration to build Heya Masr came after the lack of security, social inequality, and sexual harassment he saw in the 2011 revolution in Egypt.
“After the 2011 revolution, Egyptian-Americans wanted to do something to help Egypt, and so we travelled back to Egypt,” explains Moody. “I did some research to check out the other organisations that represent women in Egypt, but found that their targeting was not quite right. They were either targeting older woman, or were very disorganized. They also only addressed harassment. My inspiration was to build stronger personalities and characters that can survive circumstances including harassment, but also things like social inequality.”
The initiative is primarily focused on changing a girl’s lifestyle, habits or character; it is a long-term programme that lasts for nine months and consists of three levels. Each level consists of 12 sessions, with 40 hours spent on each girl. By transforming many young girls into confident social butterflies, the programme has touched and impacted many young girls’ lives. Furthermore, by teaching girls from a young age to understand what their own boundaries are, Moody argues, it enables them to fight the challenges they face in a sexist society.
“Our two year old initiative has developed a long term programme, which is focused on character building and emotional intelligence education,” says Moody. “We believe that these are key points in building a well rounded personality that challenges present circumstances and builds a better future for girls and for Egypt
“We particularly focus on girls in underprivileged areas of Cairo and Giza, with a vision to expand to all of Egypt. In the past year, we have graduated four classes and reached out to sixty girls.”
There are many success stories in the initiative – one of these being the story of 13-year old Fatma, who is part of the Istabl Anter community. Despite having a population of 1.2 million people, there is no school in the area. However, Heya Masr, in cooperation with Tawasol Organization is the only place where people in Istablr Anter are able to get their basic education. After graduating from the first stage of the programme – and soon to enter the second stage – she is more confident and stronger than ever. She is now aiming to travel to India, and more importantly continue her education.
“Educate Me”, “Nebny”, “Tawasol” and “Orphanage” are four of the organizations that Heya Masr cooperates with to present and promote the initiative.
According to Moody, the most distinguishing part of Heya Masr is the long term follow up with participants – Heya Masr is not just one lecture or one presentation, rather it is a fully developed programme, focused on the long term building of character.
By displaying their effective learning and social experience as a result of Heya Masr, graduation offers the girls an opportunity to publically speak up about their progress, future plans, hopes and dreams. During the ceremony, they shared some of their talents by playing instrument asnd singing songs. The graduates also receive certificates and gifts that include pictures taken throughout the programme, to remind them of their achievement.