By Nudge Sustainability Reporter Mostafa Shahat
Sexual harassment in Egypt is considered as one of the biggest community problems in Egypt. 99.3 % of Egyptian girls and women have experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime (UNFPA Egypt). Many Entrepreneurs and activists have been trying for a long time to spread awareness about the sexual harassment problem. However, they were struggling to find a sustainable solution.
An Egyptian entrepreneur Dr. Laila Risgallah who tackled the problem’s core, and started her own organization “Gheir Mozneb” (meaning “Not Guilty”) to educate children and adults how they could protect themselves and speak out if an incident happened. Dr. Laila worked for 20 years as a pediatrician; she grew up in a family where her dad and mom taught her how to treat people kindly, and help everyone who needs help.
Dr. Laila: “Productivity in the work is important but it has to include integrity and respecting others.”
Dr. Laila was very keen to know what her kids and friends were thinking about her project and talked with them about all the issues that they might be too shy to talk with other people, as well as their parents. In April 2012 she produced a TV program called “Let’s live it right” which contains 100 40-minutes series that are tackling many different society problems including “The relationship limits, sex before marriage, drugs, etc.”. She was the presenter and the writer for the series' content. The TV show got more than 160,000 views.
There was a turning point in Dr. Laila’s life when she traveled to South Africa in 2008. She listened to an unforgettable story of a woman who was sexually abused by her grandfather, raped and received a baby as a result of this incident. Dr. Laila believed that what she has done before to solve the problem was not enough and she had to find other alternative sustainable solutions that could solve the problem on its roots.
Dr. Laila: ”I was raising awareness, but I didn’t change behavior (...) After doing research, I figured out that to change behavior, there should be a constant message repeated between 25 – 88 days to change someone’s behavior”.
Dr. Laila started implementing school programs with an one hour session using the SKIT method (Say no, Keep private parts private, It’s not your fault, Tell someone). The sessions were focusing on spreading awareness about the problem and its consequences and teaching the families about how they could protect their children, and how they could recognize if their children have faced any harassment incident.
Dr. Laila: “Children usually can’t express their feelings or explain their complaints (...) that’s why they need to learn how to report if an incident happened and who they should talk to at school or/and at home.”
Dr. Laila who is Ashoka fellow has partnered with Ashoka Arab World and Ford Foundation to train 200 students from 5 public schools at Northern Coast – Alex about empathy and to ensure sustainability of the project. They have trained teachers at schools so they can continue teaching students later on.
Dr. Laila has written a book called “The Silver Box” which contains 10 true sexual harassment case stories. She also produced a documentary about women who are working in factories and how they face harassment during their work.
Dr. Laila received the Ashoka Fellowship award and was invited by Stanford University in 2013 to talk about her tremendous work regarding solving the sexual harassment problem in Egypt.
A nice example of how great initiatives can really make a difference.