‘Adult learning was my ticket to life’Ruqaia (40), Egypt
Going against the grain
‘All I could think of was an illiterate mom raising an illiterate girl who would eventually become an illiterate mom. The vicious circle would continue’.
Ruqaia saw many challenges in her society – early marriage, maternal mortality, poverty and lack of freedom of speech for women. She viewed the education of women and girls as key to solving these problems.
Seeking a sense of purpose
Continuing in the face of adversity
‘It was a very difficult time for me. My family told me that if I choose education then I am not abiding by the traditions and customs of my society. I tried talking sense into them by saying that I will take everything that is right from my traditions and customs and do it, but I will not partake in the things that are wrong about it’.
At one point, Ruqaia went on a hunger strike to convince her family of how serious she was about pursuing education.
The meeting of two worlds
The programme Ruqaia joined, run by the Association of Women and Society, was a four-year literacy and education programme. It comprised different subjects, including reading, writing, English, history and more.
The programme also had a life skills and livelihoods programme. Women were taught skills that they could turn into economic or livelihood opportunities, such as soapmaking, sewing, accessories-making and artisan work. Such skills help them gain financial independence, progress and develop at the personal, societal, economic and country levels.
Excelling in class
Her aim is to become a spokesperson on the importance of educating women and girls.
Adult learning opened up new opportunities for Ruqaia. It allowed her to meet people from different backgrounds and give back to her community. Ultimately, it gave her the choice to take her life into her own hands.
Despite her strained relationship with her family, Ruqaia does not regret her decision to pursue education. She wanted change, she wanted a path, she wanted a purpose. Education was the key to getting there.
‘Adult learning was my ticket to life. It started my life’.
This past year, the Association of Women and Society also made her a jury member for the next round of awards.
From lawyer to teacher
However, she soon found she preferred teaching to law and decided to join the Association of Women and Society as an adult educator. She is now the Association’s key spokesperson, travelling to rural areas in Egypt to raise awareness of the importance of education.
More than education
There is also a difference at the community level. Women become better citizens. They learn the importance of recycling, water sanitation, water preservation, electricity preservation, public health, and their legal rights.
Everything these women learn is given back to the community.