A delegation from the South Korean embassy in Cairo and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has conducted a field visit to a newly opened Population Awareness Club (PAC) in Sohag, Upper Egypt.
Sohag’s PAC is supported by the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) – the South Korean government agency that implements development cooperation projects – and operated by the UNFPA in cooperation with the Ministry of Youth and Sports and Etijah – Youth and Development Consultancy Institute.
PACs act as hubs for raising awareness on gender issues through interactive and innovative methods, such as music and theatre, to communicate messages to the communities. Sohag’s PAC is located at the Al Ahya Sharq Youth Centre.
The delegation included South Korean Ambassador in Cairo, Jin Wook Hong; Country Director of KOICA Egypt Office, Jinyoung Kim; and UNFPA Representative in Egypt, Frederika Meijer.
They attended a musical performance by young girls entitled “Shamandora” about early marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), followed by an interactive theatre performance addressing gender-based violence (GBV) and climate change. Those kinds of activities engage with the whole community through interactive means to empower women and discuss challenges that women and girls face in the society, including harmful practices and behaviours. It also addresses the life-threatening disasters caused by climate change that all villagers face, such as hot temperature, fires, floods, etc. The lyrics, music, and theatre script were written by young girls and reflected their own lives.
“I’m still a little child, I dream of running and living. My dream has no limits, and this universe is not enough for me. My dream is not a wedding and a song, or even a ring in my hand. Why should I take responsibility at such a young age? And let the world narrow down on me? ” read the lyrics of one of the songs performed by the young girls.
This activity comes as part of the Noura – Girls Assets Framework Program, which was launched under the sponsorship of First Lady Entissar Al-Sisi, and is being implemented by the UNFPA, in cooperation with the National Council for Women. Through the programme, young girls will gain better access to health, social, and educational assets to achieve a better future for themselves. KOICA is willingly contributing to the programm under the name of “Project for Preventing and Combating Gender-Based Violence in Egypt” (21’-24’ / $4m), with other significant activities such as creating safe spaces for GBV survivors, expanding anti-violence against women units in universities and hospitals, and conducting different kinds of awareness-raising programmes.
Ambassador Jin Wook Hong said: “Today marks my last stop in my tour that included Minya, Assiut, and Sohag, but your performance today will be the most memorable. I was very touched that you tried to think of a solution and prepared this beautiful play.”
He added: “Korea and Egypt still have a long way ahead of them in solving women’s issues. But if the young generations continue their efforts to solve such problems, a bright future will definitely come. As a friend to Egypt, Korea will always stand by and help the Egyptian government with the help of the UNFPA.”
Frederika Meijer, UNFPA Representative in Egypt, highlighted the importance of empowering young people and mobilizing them to achieve the 2030 Agenda.
“Today’s generation of youth in Egypt is also impressive. About 60% of Egypt’s population is under the age of 30, and there is definitely strength in those numbers,” she said, “It is only natural that we rely on them, and empower them, to become agents of change in their communities.”
For her part, Jinyoung Kim said: “KOICA is one of the like-minded partners of the UNFPA and the local partners, who support Noura Program. I was very proud witnessing all the efforts you have put in today’s performance. Being a Gender Champion myself, I see this as a new beginning for my career here, and I will do my best to support all of you on women’s issues and climate change.”
Moreover, Ahmed Samy, Sohag Deputy Governor, said: “Egypt is currently working on gender issues and we will continue to expand our efforts in line with the presidential initiative Decent Life, and with the support of the Korean government and the UNFPA.”
Yousry Kafafi, Undersecretary of the Directorate of Youth and Sports in Sohag, commented: “The theatre performance was brilliant and discussed some significant and modern issues we are facing today. We’re hoping that the support given to this youth centre will expand to other centres in Sohag, in particular, and other governorates as well.”
The performance director commented: “What really amazes me is the enthusiasm of the young people and their dedication, and how they stand against their conservative communities who oppose the participation of girls in such activities.”
He added: “I was nervous at first because I knew that foreigners will be attending the play but I was so excited at the same time to convey my feelings and our message to everyone. The teamwork was amazing and it encouraged me more to perform my best to deliver our messages and thoughts.”
One of the observers commented: “I liked how the performance was discussing three different stories, and how the girls were asking for their rights.”
The Korean Government vowed to strengthen its efforts to work with the Egyptian Government to promote gender equality and achieve zero gender-based violence in Egypt.
KOICA is a Korean government agency under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs dedicated to implementing grant aid programmes. KOICA aims to combat poverty and support sustainable socio-economic growth in developing countries around the globe.