YW4A Stories of Leadership: Young Women’s Leadership in Action in Egypt

The Young Women for Awareness, Agency, Advocacy and Accountability (YW4A) initiative has been instrumental in empowering young women to become leaders and advocates for change in their communities. Through various initiatives, the programme has provided participants with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to address critical issues such as interfaith dialogue and harassment. One standout story from the programme in Egypt is that of Madonna Rizk, a remarkable young woman whose journey exemplifies the programme’s impact.

Photo: Madonna Rizk (front row in black top) with other young leaders during the Psycological First Aid training in Egypt.

Madonna seized a unique opportunity to represent Egypt at the Sixty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67). During the event, she was essential as a representative and moderator in an interfaith dialogue that brought together diverse participants, including parliament representatives, Christian and Muslim faith leaders, social and civil community representatives, and many others. Madonna’s journey is an inspiring tale that resonates with all young women in the YW4A Programme, showcasing her dedication and passion for promoting interfaith understanding and cooperation.

With unwavering commitment, Madonna demonstrated exceptional leadership skills and a genuine desire to create a harmonious society. Her ability to facilitate dialogue among stakeholders from different backgrounds showcased her remarkable talent for fostering meaningful conversations and mutual respect. Madonna’s involvement in the interfaith dialogue highlighted the importance of bridging divides and nurturing understanding between faith communities, facilitating peace and tolerance.

Photo: Young women during a refresher training on the Young Women's Feminist Consultation Methodology (FCM) in Egypt. The training was facilitated by the World YWCA.

However, Madonna’s success was not a solitary achievement. The active participation of young women who had graduated from Cohorts One and Two of the YW4A Programme played a crucial role in the success of the interfaith dialogue. These women exhibited exceptional engagement and skills, skillfully handling logistics, organisation, and coordination. From coordinating the activities to moderating focus group discussions, their efforts ensured a smooth and impactful event, providing a supportive environment for interfaith dialogue to thrive.

In addition to Madonna’s inspiring journey, the YW4A Programme’s post-evaluation of the online harassment training also showcased success stories shared by young women. One participant shared her transformation from a victim of harassment to an empowered individual ready to take action. Having experienced numerous instances of harassment and discomfort in transportation, she previously hesitated to speak up or respond. However, the training instilled in her the confidence to confront such situations head-on, refusing to tolerate inappropriate behaviour. She now advocates for herself and others, unafraid to address the person responsible and ensure their actions are held accountable.

Photo: Madonna Rizk (second row, extreme right) with other young women during the FCM training which was facilitated by Monica Aziz (second row, third from the left) the World YWCA MENA Region Programme Manager. front row in black top) with other young leaders during the Psycological First Aid training in Egypt.

When confronted with harassment at work, the young women emphasized the importance of taking prompt action and familiarizing oneself with the appropriate reporting mechanisms. Recognizing the various forms harassment can take within the workplace, they stressed the significance of not remaining silent, even if the person making the insinuations appears friendly. 

Armed with knowledge about international standards, such as the International Labour Organization’s Convention No. 190, which defines and addresses harassment comprehensively, these young women are equipped to differentiate between sexual assault and sexual harassment. This knowledge empowers them to respond appropriately and take necessary action when faced with such situations, actively contributing to a safer and more inclusive work environment.