In 2012, the Amal (meaning ‘hope’ in Arabic) Project was launched in three villages in rural Minya, Egypt. Amal started as a humble effort to economically empower widows and female breadwinners through vocational and financial literacy training, as well as micro-finance and innovative micro-social capital or savings and lending groups. Amal equips extremely impoverished, margainlised and vulnterable widows with the resources and support needed to establish microenterprises, and in turn to sustain themselves and their families. More importantly, the Amal Project is premised on an oath that every widow takes to support other widows on their journey to self-relieance once she is able to stand on her own feet.
In 2015, the Amal Project was piloted in the Burj al Barajneh Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon marking the first attempt at scaling the project.To date, the Amal Project has transformed the lives of 6,400 widows in Egypt and Lebanon.
The Amal Project
The Amal Project offers widows vocatoinal training in business areas they have expressed interest in. For example, widows seeking to raise poultry or small livestock receive training from licensed veteranarians in breeding, nutrition, and disease detection. Widows seeking to set up vending enterprises learn how to buy wholesale and sell retail, inventory management, and best customer service practices. Other widows are trained in hairdressing, soap/detergent making, feedstock production, and food production. Along with vocational training, the Amal Project conducts financial literacy training with all widows. Additionally, representatives from Egypt’s Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs conduct informational sessions to educate widows and FHHs about their rights and entitlements, including pensions, health insurance, and educational assistance for their children.
Once this education and skill-building takes place, widows and FHHs enrolled in the Amal Project are able to access investment capital either in the form of a micro loan or micro-social capital (savings and lending groups).
Roughly 4270 widows, or 76% of Amal Project participants received capital in the form of a micro loan. The average size of the loan was EGY 1500 with an interest rate of 10%. The Amal Project experienced a 100% repayment rate on these loans, testimony to the strong underwriting practices and dedicated management of Future Eve Foundation, but also to the diligence, drive, excellent vocational and financial literacy training, congenial support of other widows, and “no-option but success” culture adopted by the widows.
of widows under the age of 40 chose animal breeding in the home for a career in order to be able to stay home and raise their children.
The Amal Project also employed a Micro-Social Capital program. Some 1340 widows in the program were enrolled in social groups consisting of 15 members. With guidance from the Amal Project, these widows and female heads of households learned to elect an executive committee from amongst themselves. The widows met weekly for a period of one year. They invested their savings in a group savings plan and let the pooled money to a member who presented a business plan. The interest rate returned to the group by the borrower constituted the equity gains on their investment. These savings allowed the widows to generate savings for the first time. Socially the benefits of the social fund were immeasurable, offering them critically needed social and psychological outlet, a safe place to voice their shared experiences, an opportunity to generate best practices within their business, friendships among each other, and most importantly, solidarity as a social force. The widows each signed a “social contract” promising to support other widows within their community both through financial support of their micro-enterprises and socially by offering their solidarity, friendship, and loyalty.