When women experience domestic violence, it pervades all aspects of the social fabric. “I acted violently in response to the violence I suffered,” said Fatma,* an Egyptian woman. “I channeled that violence toward my children.”
A 2005 survey showed that 50 percent of Egyptian women aged 15 to 49 who had been married had experienced violence at home. Despite the Egyptian government’s efforts to address human rights issues, domestic violence against women is still a significant problem.
To address the issue of domestic violence in Egypt, the Women and Development Association (WDA) created the Hand-in-Hand to Combat Domestic Violence activity through a USAID grant. The activity educated men and women on women's rights and improved economic opportunities for women. The education campaign empowered women in abusive situations to change their lives.
As a result of the program, one woman said, “I always felt useless and worthless, like a servant who serves her masters without having a say in anything. In the association, they taught me how to increase my presence and even affect my entire neighborhood or village.”
To combat the impact of domestic abuse, WDA hosted public meetings attended by 650 women and men, including religious leaders, to observe the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Other awareness-raising events included seminars for 120 women and men about women’s rights under Islam and for 60 newlywed and engaged men on the effects of domestic violence.
WDA leaders think that involving men as equal partners in ending domestic violence is their most important outcome. “I realized my responsibility to raise awareness among men about the dangers of domestic violence,” said one man.
WDA also made progress in prompting a reexamination of traditional gender roles in Egypt. “In the association, I learned not to give up my rights,” Fatma said. “My husband should treat me well and I should treat my children well in return.”
The USAID/Egypt Combating Violence against Women and Children project
gives grants like the one explained above to nongovernmental organizations like WDA to develop and disseminate community responses to gender-based violence, including such activities as advocacy and raising public awareness. The project worked in partnership with the Egyptian government and civil society organizations to reduce violence against women and children and to assist victims of gender-based violence.
*Not her real name