A Successful Third Annual Conference for ENID Ends in Luxor

ENID’s third annual conference was held on the 14th of February, 2016, with the participation of around 300 guests. The theme was The Role of Women in Sustainable Rural Development. The conference was held in the governorate of Luxor this year, continuing ENID’s tradition of organizing the annual conference at the heart of its various developmental interventions in Upper Egypt, where the majority of the country’s 1000 poorest villages are located. Additionally, the conference was an excellent opportunity for ENID to celebrate achieving the status of an independent foundation, which it now holds simultaneously with its legal status as a UNDP project. This ensures the long-term sustainability and expansion of its best practices both in the South and on the national level. 

The conference was held under the auspices of the Minister of International Cooperation. In addition, it hosted the governors of Luxor and Qena, the head of the National Council for Women (NCW) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Resident Representative, also attracting the presence of a large number of policymakers at the central and local levels, development partners, international organizations, foundations, private sector representatives, and prominent thinkers and experts. In attendance were also many of ENID’s beneficiaries, women and men in their youth who are most vulnerable to poverty and who have benefited from ENID’s project domains. These include learning an innovative new craft through the One Village One Product (OVOP) handicraft development model, or establishing a rooftop garden or poultry backyard through the agriculture and off-farm employment domain, or combining preschool services, literacy classes and skill formation in an integrated program. The conference was thus an excellent and rare opportunity to gather all the key stakeholders on the ground to have productive policy debates, and share lessons learned and recommendations to find the best path to poverty alleviation. 
This year’s conference theme highlights the constraints and impediments faced by women in the South who are most vulnerable to poverty in the most neglected villages. This crucial topic was addressed in both main sessions, the first on women in the household, and the second on women in the labor market. These two areas are essential for any sustained upgrading of women’s wellbeing in Egypt’s marginalized societies, hence the need for policy reforms and projects on the ground in both of these domains. The first session was moderated by Dr. Maya Morsy, the newly appointed head of the NCW, with numerous experts providing short presentations in topics including social protection, education and nutrition of mother and child, sanitation, and marriage, reproduction and divorce. The second session was chaired by Dr. Amina Ghanem, executive director of the Egyptian National Competitiveness Council (ENCC), with contributions on the role of women in industry and trade, entrepreneurship, sustainable agricultural development, access to financial and non-financial services, microfinance through NGOs, and technical vocational education and training (TVET). 

Emphasizing the thematic area of the role of women allowed ENID to present ways in which its implemented projects contributes to improving the wellbeing of its female and male beneficiaries as well as paving the way for innovative approaches to tackle familiar and persistent challenges faced by women, children, and men in the poorest villages. This discussion took place in the final session of the conference, as Dr. Nihal El Megharbel, advisor to the Minister of Planning, provided a long-term 2030 vision for women in Egypt’s national sustainable development strategy, followed by concluding remarks by Dr. Heba Handoussa, Managing Director of ENID and Dr. Dyaa Abdou, Program Manager for the Agriculture component. 

Additional to the conference itself, ENID successfully organized two Field Visits, the first on the day preceding and the second on the day following the conference, where attendees were able to directly observe at first hand several ENID projects in Qena governorate and meet with the project beneficiaries during their training workshops. The field visit began in El Gamaleya Village, where participants visited a cluster of OVOP workshops promoting SMEs and entrepreneurship in woodwork, including production of serving bowls, Oima sculpting, arabesque wood turning and a carpentry workshop. The second village to be visited was Abbassa, where basic services projects included a preschool class,and a  joint cut and sew/ literacy classes workshop. The milk-processing units and recycling of agricultural residues were explored in Al Olayqat village, both projects operating under the agriculture and off-farm employment domain. ENID’s handloom embroidery workshop in Qena City was viewed along with a rooftop garden. Completing the visit took place in El Keryateya village where the camel bone sculpting workshop and a second milk-processing unit are located. The Field Visits were an excellent opportunity for ENID to demonstrate some of the project’s key developments on the ground, and to emphasize the need for successful projects and best practices such as these to be replicated in other vulnerable villages. 

ENID’s conference was regarded as a success, and underlined the newfound urgency by all stakeholders to promote sustainable development in the South of Upper Egypt in the coming years, as well as the need to embed the best practices and recommendations within a new national vision for development in post-revolution Egypt.