For the Arabic version of the interview, please click here. For the full English interview, please read below.
The interviewee: Mr. Moody Demetry
Founder and Director of Heya Masr – She is Egypt
- Why did you Choose “ Heya Masr” to be the initiative’s name?
Heya Masr was picked after a lot of discussion. The discussion was centered on what is the mission and vision of our initiative.
We want to build a stronger generation for Egypt and realized that the key to such success is to invest in young girls so that they grow up stronger, more confident, and able to take on any challenges.
- Why do you decide to target only girls in this age group (9-18 years) and not adolescents of both genders?
Our initiative in only two years old; we started by investing in young girls because they are the ones who can influence their communities and families. Starting at a young age is a key according to UN research; our character is developed in the early years on our lives and it is the best time to shape them.
In the long term, we will work to target young boys. However neither our goal nor our mission will change. We will present the boys with the same training, emphasizing the importance of the role of women in the society.
- What are the main features that you are trying to instill in the girls’ characters through the initiative’s curriculum: building self-confidence and restoring a sense of dignity?
Our efforts are unique because we rely on UN studies* that report behavior changes take place at an early age and equip women with mechanisms to empower themselves against the negative impact of extreme deprivation, abuse, and other adversities they face during their formative years. In this way, we believe we adopt a proactive strategy rather than a reactive one. We believe empowering women during adolescence to be stronger, more stable, more confident, and independent will impact future generations of Egypt and will reduce the numbers of abused girls and school drop outs.
- The Initiative is based on developing the girls’ Character through three axes: nutrition, lifestyle, and sexual harassment awareness and self-defense.
Why did you choose to raise awareness of sexual harassment without other negative phenomena surrounding the Egyptian girls, like female genital mutilation, child marriage, and domestic violence?
Let me make a note. In Heya Masr we not mainly found to fight harassment or one particular issue. We are about building a character that is stronger and more confident. We teach how to respect one another, listen to one another, communicate effectively, then we use two practical application (harassment awareness and nutritional education) to apply what they learned in the self-development classes. We increase their emotional intelligence to be aware of the circumstance and lead them into solutions in those two areas.
I believe that no one can tackle those problems or any other problems in our Egyptian society without strong and well mind.
On the other hand, with a strong well and Confident character girls, or anyone can stand-up for any issues including harassments. Investing in building a character from young age in the answer to many problems we face today. A character that isn’t only fights the circumstance, but strong and hopeful enough to build a better future for themselves and for Egypt.
- How do girls reach you or you reach them out? And, are you targeting girls in Cairo only or other provinces as well?
Right now we are working in Cairo and Giza. We have a total of four classes in three locations. We want to take on the whole country and spread to every city and be in every school. However, we are limited by resource and people.
We built a 9 month mobile program that we can take to any community. The program leaves a permanent impact on any child. We reach girls through partnering with existing nonprofits and conduct classes within their centers and communities.
Our website is HeyaMasr.org, Email: HeyaMasr@gmail.com and facebook: Facebook.com/HeyaMasr
- On your website, it is mentioned that the Initiative targets the middle-class girls… So what are the criteria for determining if the Girl belongs to Middle Class or not? And What about the girls who belong to lower classes who suffer from lack of confidence and awareness more than the targeted category?
Very good question, since we started, we realized that the lower class is growing faster and the middle class is shirking every day. Therefore, since the start day, we been working and focusing on the underprivileged girls in the lower class.
- What are the main problems you have noticed, that the girls in this age group suffer the most?
The main problem we noticed is lack of confidence. The girls we been mentoring has very low self-esteem. We do a personality test in the beginning of our program and we find the majority of girls aren’t happy with who they are. Aren’t hopeful and feels that they can’t be anything they want to be. They are pressed too much to hope for a better tomorrow.
- Is there follow-up from “Heya Masr” for the participants after completion of the program?
What makes Heya Masr very different from any other is the follow-up system we have.
Our program runs for 9 month and throughout the program we have a weekly follow-up to asset the girls’ behavior and habit changes. In addition to that, Heya Masr will work diligently to create and kick off a Little Sister Big Sister program, a community-based mentorship (CBM) program. It will be based on a one-to-one mentoring model which matches girls (Little Sisters) between the ages of 8-18 with professional and educated women mentors (Big Sisters), with the purpose of inspiring young girls through role modeling.
- On which grounds, trainers are chosen?
We conduct two interviews with each applicant to ensures their commitment to the program. We like to choose the ones who are experienced and have knowledge or prior experience of social work. Our team from all social classes because we believe that each of them can benefit the team in one way or another.
Our team is a very committed team of volunteers. They are all very educated and experienced working with young girls on many issues like harassment and sexual abuse. Many of them studied social studies and been working in refugees assistance programs. They build a personal relationship with each and every girl in order to create a mutual trust that builds character and motives them to communicate
- What are the main agencies, which you cooperate with or support you?
We are currently working with the following organizations:
Educate_Me In Giza, Nebny in Manshiet Nasar, Tawasol in Establ Anter and with the Ministry of Youth and Sports in el Manyal Dar El Mabara girls orphanage. Lastly, we work closely with IGMADI on self-defense classes and events.
- What are your upcoming plans in regard to “Heya Masr”?
Here are a few plans for the upcoming years:
Mentoring Program: a community-based mentorship (CBM) program
Heya Masr Academy is by far the most important part of our vision. By establishing Heya Masr Academy, we will bring our tested and proven program to all parts of Egypt, by training instructors and institutions to run the program on their campuses
Heya Masr Boys Program: In Heya Masr we understand the importance of the two key components of successful society to also include boys in our program. Like girls, young boys face difficult and hostile circumstances within society.
Parenting Program: Heya Masr understands the importance of involving the family and the community to make a real and cultural change. We want to create an environment of support for each female participant in our program.
Educational Songs and Jingles: Heya Masr to write, compose, and produce musical songs and jingles and use it as an educational tool to reinforce and strengthen our program in class
Published Stories: Similar to Animation, reading has been lacking for the longest time in the Egyptian society. Heya Masr will write and publish short, educational stories suited to younger age groups that support the values of Heya Masr of building healthy characters that are strong, hopeful, and confident to challenge the current circumstances and build a better future.