Born in a rural Bedouin community in North Sinai Governorate, Egypt, Yasmina Atta grew up in a culture that heavily restricts the roles of women. Undeterred by this oppression, she started to support young women in claiming their rights and becoming relevant economic and political actors.
I was born in a rural Bedouin community in North Sinai Governorate, Egypt. Being a woman in a Bedouin community is not easy. The customs and traditions of Bedouin people don’t allow women to work outside their homes and women’s education opportunities are quite limited. But despite the economic and gender difficulties that women face here I’m positive about the possibility of strengthening our leadership roles in our communities.
To actively participate in this change, I started the Youth Sinai Foundation for Development and Human Rights in 2012. We support young women in claiming their rights and becoming relevant economic and political actors. I work with them to increase their participation within the community. We raise awareness around the legal rights for women who undertake agricultural activities and help them in completing all the required administrative papers and documents.
Through our foundation, women also raise their skill in non-traditional agricultural activities, including cultivation of olives and methods of processing and packaging medicinal and aromatic plants. As we have extended our work to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and Lake Bardawil, we also started working on the integration of women in fisheries. They are now participating in fishing sector networks and are learning about methods of peeling, packaging and marketing of shrimps. In addition, the young women we work with are improving their already great skill in needlework and handmade products. I’ve realised that for many women in the Sinai region this is a very good way to make a living, as it allows them to work from home and they are able to produce very good quality and sophisticated materials.
As young Bedouin women are engaged in these activities, they become aware of the important role they play in society. We encourage them to take part in political decision making and show them the benefits for society when they are active in their communities. I am proud to work with these young women and I can see we are already becoming stronger. My hope for the future is that Bedouin women will participate in all walks of life, especially in politics.
Yasmina Atta is founder of the Youth Sinai Foundation for Development and Human Rights and the Youth Sinai Development Company. She is also a member of YPARD, the community of Young Professionals for Agricultural Development. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org