Men Play a Major Role, and an Early One
Male volunteers are part of the H&MF supported Early Childhood Development (ECD) voluntary centers to promote for equal gender roles in the early childhood stage.
Aswan, Egypt - It’s seven a.m. in the morning, parents are rushing with their children to the Early Childhood Development (ECD) voluntary center, a beautiful scene to witness in Selwa Bahary village, located in Kom Ombo city in Aswan governorate. Children are welcomed at the center’s gate by 29-year-old Abdelrahman Taha, a young male volunteer whose role in the center starts with receiving children from their parents.
“I used to volunteer in establishing a dialysis unit in the village, my role was to collect donations. Now patients in the village don’t have to go all the way to Kom Ombo to receive their dialysis session” says Abdelrahman proudly. Hearing about Abdelrahman’s reputable volunteering experience and good connections, the director of Selwa Bahary Youth Center approached him to volunteer in the ECD Voluntary Center that is newly established as part of the youth center.
“Before we officially launch the project, my role was to inform the parents in the village about the ECD Voluntary Center” says Abdelrahman. Thanks to his efforts, the center received more than 70 applications. However, to ensure the quality of child care, applications were filtered down to 30 children, prioritizing early submissions and younger children.
Abdelrahman’s daily role is divided into receiving the children from their parents, leading the daily morning exercise, helping the facilitator in organizing educational games as well as supervising the children. Moreover, Abdelrahman carries out administrative work such as keeping track of attendance and health records of the enrolled children. “Every two weeks, my colleague and I organize seminars to the parents covering topics such as different stages of childhood and how to communicate with children at each'' adds Abdelrahman.
Abdelrahman’s role extends beyond the walls of the center. Sometimes, he goes to pick up children whose parents are not able to bring them to the center because of their work demands. He also conducts home visits to parents of the enrolled children for personal consultation by listening to their concerns and providing advice.
“Crying children calm down when I talk to them, because they feel safe” says Abdelrahman who believes that the primary role of the man is to provide a sense of security to the child, thus it is important to exist as a male figure in the ECD voluntary center.
Among the children enrolled in the center is Abdallah who recently lost his father. “We decided to enroll Abdallah to the center right after his father’s death” said Mohamed Soliman Abdalla’s uncle, “we are grateful to Abdelrahman who understood the needs of Abdallah after being deprived of his father. It is important for Abdallah’s psychological wellbeing to get engaged with other children and to see a man playing a role in the center.”
“The volunteering experience has personally taught me how to communicate and understand a child at this stage and qualified me to raise my future children” says Abdelrahman who previously studied and worked in the field of social work and human resources. Through volunteering in the center, he believes he gained practical experience focused on dealing with children in early childhood stage. “My career goal is to focus on early childhood development either in schools or NGOs” explains Abdelrahman.
The ECD voluntary center in Kom Ombo city is one of the very first centers to be established earlier this year in Aswan. It is a pilot model funded by the H&M Foundation and designed by UNICEF in partnership with the Ministry of Youth, the Central association for KG Supervisors League and the Ministry of Social Solidarity. The ECD voluntary centers target children aged between two and four years old. They use the spaces of youth centers, under the leadership of MoY, to promote youth and community engagement in some of the most deprived communities. The initial target is to establish twenty five centers in three governorates: Cairo, Alexandria and Aswan.