Votes for Women – Nesreen’s Story


This week, we’ll be celebrating 100 years since the first time women were able to vote in the UK.

Although it would still be some years until all women were able to vote, on 14 December 1918, women over 30 voted in the General Election.

As we remember the struggles for equal suffrage in the UK, we want to tell you Nesreen’s story…

When Nesreen* went to vote in Egypt's presidential elections, she knew exactly what to do. Although nervous, she knew this was an important moment; the time to assert a precious right and to influence her country's future.

Nesreen had never voted before.

Egypt has universal suffrage but in order to receive the ballot papers, voters must present their National ID card, and Nesreen didn't have one. Because of her sex, her parents had not made it a priority to register her birth so, like too many other women and girls, Nesreen did not politically exist.

On 27 March 2018, that changed. Nesreen showed her new ID card to the clerk, and the Presidential Election voting papers were finally in her hand. It was time to make her mark.

Nesreen was able to apply for an ID card and learn about the voting process thanks to an Embrace-supported Christian-led project.

We know that in Egypt many girls and women are unable to read and write, and that this contributes to the poverty of whole communities.

So they set up a project that works in the heart of the poorest villages and calls to marginalised women to raise their voices and claim their rights.

The female students are invited by volunteers and agree between them what school hours suit everyone. They then attend school each day for lessons led by locally recruited teachers.

Women, and in turn their children, learn to read, write and count.

Being able to read and add up makes life easier – understanding the street signs helps women travel further from home, and they can get the best deals on groceries and bills.

One student, Yousra*, told us how her new skills enrich her relationship with her granddaughter:

'Since starting classes and learning the alphabet, I have been able to read with her and talk about what she learnt in nursery. I am very happy that I started to think and study with my granddaughter.'

But while reading, writing and arithmetic are vitally important, the project is about much more too – it's about women supporting each other to raise their self-worth; it's about fostering sisterhood in a safe environment and finding ways to make life better for the girls of the future.

And, as Nesreen discovered, change extends beyond the local area – the skills gained helped women without birth certificates and ID cards to apply for them, which means they can exercise their right to vote.

In the run-up to Egypt's 2018 elections, our Christian partners set a target – if 50% of their students voted, that would be a powerful testimony to the project's success.

The target was smashed when 98% of the female students went to the polls. They finally had the chance to influence politics and society – and they took it.

And you can help more Egyptian women take their place in society by giving a friend or loved one our new 'Votes for Women' Alternative Gift. It supports Christian-led projects to advance women's literacy and helps women make positive changes in their communities and families.

*Names have been changed.