Marta* grew up in rural Egypt – she was always looked down upon both because she was not Muslim, and because she was not male.
“You could say that girls here are buried alive,” she says. “A girl doesn’t know her rights. She is considered to be worth less than a boy. She doesn’t have the right to speak or to take a decision or to state her opinion freely.”
A 2013 Reuters study labelled Egypt as ‘the worst country in the Arab world to be a woman’. And Christian women might be the worst off in this society. Because of their perceived lower status, they are victims of an enormous amount of (often sexual) harassments, including cases of kidnapping.
Marta and her friends understood the situation they faced, so they decided to act.
“We were in the first year of high school. We were getting together with a few girls and we were talking about the church. They told me about sister Christine* and said that she ran a course for girls. They gave me the number of sister Christine and I called her up. She came to our church and I got the girls together for her. She talked to the girls and got to know people. We agreed that she would come down to us once a month.”
The girls’ programme covers different aspects of growing up and the pressures that girls face, and it aims to improve their mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing.
They learn how they can take care of themselves and stand up for their rights. But, most importantly, they are able to explore the love that God has for them. “The teacher taught us to believe how valuable we are in the eyes of God. That we are worth no less than boys,” Marta says, her eyes lighting up. “She taught us how to have a relationship with God, how to share our lives with Him, and how to receive emotional healing.”
Marta has now become a teacher of the women’s programme herself. Thanks to the programme she has become a young woman on fire for God. She is a strong asset in her local church, teaching other girls about the Bible. And, like Marta, many girls are being encouraged when they find their true value and strength in Him. Marta says, “Whatever happens, even if the whole world is against me, if I am in a relationship with the Lord, I will have no fear.”
As a leader in women’s ministry, Marta hears a lot of stories from the girls in the community about abuse – stories that are often not listened to: “A girl’s accusation isn’t often believed. Instead, she will be scolded for saying bad things about other people. The abuse and pressure we face causes a lot of stress, and many of us have low self-esteem.”
Marta explains how that low self-esteem impacts the girls. “When girls don’t find love at home, they try to find it elsewhere. Some are starting a relationship with a Muslim and convert to his religion. Those relationships are not going to satisfy the hearts of those girls, only Christ can do that,” she says.
*Names have been changed for security reasons
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.