Young males in Egypt still have unequal perceptions of gender roles, many of which are shaped by religious teachings and interpretations of the Bible. Roushdy& Sieverding, (2015) in a panel survey of young people in Egypt found that some young men feel that they are entitled to rule the home merely because of their gender, while others believe that educating boys is more crucial than educating girls. The study also found that Egypt also has a high tolerance for sexual harassment, with many young males feeling that women and girls who are harassed are deserving of it if they are dressed provocatively.
Another study, which assessed the extent to which faith-based organizations (FBOs) have incorporated gender equality into their legal instruments, policies, teachings, and decision-making structures, conducted by Faith to Action Network and KIT Royal Tropical Institute had similar conclusion. The study revealed several negative societal norms and behaviors associated with sexual based violence (SGBV) are frequently promoted by family members like parents and grandmothers. They include adolescent and child marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), and coerced school dropouts for girls.
In response, Faith to Action Network in collaboration with Ibrahimia Media Centre (IMC) is rolling out an approach called “Promoting Positive Masculinities” to shift community actors’ and faith organizations’ social norms and practices toward promoting young women’s rights to dignity, bodily integrity, and equal participation in decision making. Masculinities are social constructs shaped by social institutions that relate to perceived notions shared by both men and women about how “real” men behave and, more importantly, how men are expected to behave in specific settings to be considered “real men.”
Using the approach, we have been having peer to peer community dialogues and trainings with women, young women, men, young men and faith leaders to ensure that men and young men practice positive masculinities to secure young women being safe and heard. We hope that by implementing this approach we will promote positive masculinities primarily among men and young men with benefits felt amongst young women in target communities.
Women, young women, men, young men and faith leaders have shared the various perspectives they have gained since they started the community dialogues and trainings. In a training held on 8th March to 11th of March 2023 at Oasis Resort, Alexandria, to mark International Women’s Day, the participants shared many inspiring success stories.
Reverend Sameh Philip Abel, a Servant of the Rock Center at the Evangelical Church, shared that he thought he was living right in his house with his wife, sister and women he has encountered, but he discovered that he had a lot to learn about how to treat them correctly. He says that by participating in the training and the community dialogues, he has gained tools that will help him and the society as a whole. He says: “As an influential person in the church, I have to adopt and change the societal norms that exist within the church. Also, through the knowledge I have gained, I will be able to challenge societal norms in society, promote positive masculinities, and prevent gender-based violence.”
Furthermore, young women stated that by participating in the training, they have gained new perspectives on various Bible verses and how those verses reflect on their relationships with males in their lives. Ms. Reneh Ashraf Maqar, a youth servant at Saint Mina Church in the Coptic Orthodox Church, shared her sentiments about these verses: Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything (Ephesians 5:22-24). She said that she he never understood because she thought that verse 22 implied that men were superior to women and thus women are their object. But, because of the training, she did, however, come to understand the verse to mean that a woman submits to her spouse in a loving manner and that it is not a case of the man bossing her around. In addition, she added that it became clear to her that verses 23-24 do not imply that women were inferior, but rather that men and women could coexist peacefully since the body and the head cannot be separated.
Father Elia Kamal, a priest at the Coptic Orthodox Church of Saint Mina, termed the training as very helpful. He said he has gained an understanding of the distinction between the concepts of sex and gender. He adds: “Through the training, I have learnt that gender means the roles and patterns that society ascribes to male and female and sex is specific to the biological nature of a human being.” Through the training, he also recognizes that he has a responsibility to report any form of gender-based or sexual abuse that occurs in his community, a responsibility that not just falls on the survivor of violence but also on society at large.
The success stories mentioned above are just a few of the ones we’ve had in Egypt, and the trainings will keep changing people one at a time. The positive masculinities training and approach is implemented as part of Young Women for Awareness, Agency, Advocacy and Accountability (YW4A) programme. Faith to Action Network is working with Tearfund and partners in Egypt, Kenya, and South Sudan, to promote young women’s rights to dignity, bodily integrity, and equal involvement in decision-making by working to change social norms and behaviors by community actors and religious organizations.
 Roushdy, R., & Sieverding, M. (2015). Panel Survey of Young People in Egypt (SYPE) 2014: Generating evidence for policy, programs, and research.