College works with Menoufia University to implement
People Empowering People in Egypt
By Kim Markesich
When the government of Egypt established the National Council for Women in 2000, one result was a five-year collaboration between UConn and Menoufia University called Partnership to Promote Women in Development. The project was funded in 2005 through USAID under the Middle East Partnership Initiative. Boris Bravo-Ureta, professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, and Elizabeth Mahan, associate executive director of the University’s Office of Global Programs, were co-PIs for the original proposal. Menoufia University counterparts were Taghreed Farahat, professor of community medicine, and Ibrahim Siddik, professor of agricultural and resource economics.
The team developed workshops and organized visits to both universities. “The workshops were well received,” says Mahan. “They introduced a model of teaching that is uncommon in Egypt, that is, student-centered learning, where sharing the knowledge and experience of the workshop participants is considered central to achieving the overarching goal of the program, which was women's empowerment.”
Farahat, Siddik, and their colleague Olfat Farang, from Mansoura University, visited UConn in October 2009. They visited the 4-H Farm, learned about EFNEP, and visited the Charter Oak International Academy, West Hartford, where they learned about the UConn Extension program People Empowering People (PEP). At that point, the group agreed to extend the program and introduce PEP to women in Egypt.
The PEP program is a simple model that builds on the unique strengths and life experiences of participants, and emphasizes the connection between individual and community action. PEP is a low-cost program that works universally, dependent only on trained facilitators and participants in a community.
During January of 2010, PEP coordinator and extension educator Cheryl Czuba, Maria Luz Fernandez, professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences, and Mahan visited Egypt, touring a community center where Czuba shared the PEP program with medical students. “It was an experience that I will never forget,” Czuba says. “They showed us incredible hospitality and warmth. I was very moved and awed by the courage of these women and their belief in making a difference in their country.”
In May of 2011, Farahat and Mervat El-Rafie, professor of medicine at Cairo University, spent a week at UConn to participate in PEP facilitator training. Their trip was funded through the Dean’s office and the Office of International Affairs. “Dean Weidemann is a huge supporter of this international partnership,” says Love.
The first day of their visit included an introduction to the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Cooperative Extension System, highlighting many outreach programs, such as the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program and 4-H Youth Development. Several faculty members spoke, including Dean Gregory Weidemann; Dean Robert McCarthy of the School of Pharmacy and Chair of Public Engagement and Outreach; Cameron Faustman, associate dean; Bonnie Burr, director of volunteer development and 4-H Youth Development; Linda Drake, program director in Nutritional Sciences; and Denis Coble and Valerie Duffy, professors in Allied Health Sciences. Mary Ann Fusco-Rollins, Extension program coordinator, and 4-H members Joy Rollins and Alix Moriarty gave an overview of the Tolland County 4-H program.
On the second day of their visit, Joe Bonelli, extension educator, worked with Czuba, Mahan and Love to facilitate a group tour of several PEP sites, including the Bristol Family Resource Center, the Community Renewal Team in Hartford and the Charter Oak Academy Family Resource Center.
“These women came here as medical doctors, and they clearly loved the PEP program,” Love says. “They are doing wonderful work and looking for ways to do even more. The whole notion of women empowering women is very exciting.”
Through the financial support of the College, Czuba worked with nutritional sciences graduate student and Menoufia University graduate Shymaa Ata, to develop an Arabic version of the curriculum. German Cutz, extension educator, worked with Ata to include the Arabic translation for the PEP web site. Once completing her degree, Ata will join the faculty of Menoufia University and become a PEP facilitator in Egypt.