As a woman owned business, I understand the challenges that women constantly face in the workplace.
Today, I am proud to say that our factory workforce in Egypt is made up of 30% women.
But it didn’t always used to be that way.
The fact remains that as soon as women marry in Egypt, they leave their jobs and never return back to the workforce. We were finding that these women were leaving after months of training, creating many delays in our production - a problem that needed to be solved.
THIS IS ANNA
So, in 2012 a pilot project was launched at our sewing factory to educate women on how to balance their work and family life - a possibility that many women did not think existed. Daily round table discussions were conducted on an array of topics that included training for career advancement, how to work with males in the workplace, as well as effective time management.
Empowering women in our factory is not about educating just the women, but also equally important to educate the men on gender equality - a huge undertaking.
Our gender equality strategist Anna Koelling, who took on this task, flew in from Germany to take this larger than life project head on. If you know Anna, (happily a women’s rights advocate) you would know that this project was right up her ally. During my bi-annual visits to the farm, I would sit down with Anna during lunch and ask how the project was going. During the first year of the program I could hear the pessimism in her voice and sometimes disappointment that the changes in people’s outlook of gender equality was not taking place fast enough. We were trying to establish something that runs counter to Egyptian society, hence the big time challenge. It took a little longer than she had anticipated… but soon enough she started to make headway and we could start seeing the positive changes that were taking place between the women and men at the factory - an outcome that was most gratifying and exciting.
The interactions between the men and women became more respectful and men were actually open and willing to listen to their feedback and suggestions. As a result, positive changes were implemented in our factory. Take Samya as an example, she now manages our Under the Nile toyshop – a team of both men and women.
To this day, I have seen the journey that both women and men have taken over the last years and are proud that they are all part of the Under the Nile team.
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