Encouraging childhood self-reliance

Omneya Yousry, Tuesday 8 Aug 2023

A new initiative is helping mothers let their children be more independent during the summer holidays.

Initiative helping mothers let their children be more independent during the summer holidays


The summer break is the ideal time to teach children independence and self-reliance. On their first day of school, children commence their path towards independence, an experience that builds the foundations for a lifetime’s journey of literacy and education. 

When the schools are out for the summer, there can be a new chapter in the path towards self-sufficiency, necessary for a stable future and a more cohesive society. 

With this in mind, last month Nesma Medhat and Hebatallah Ezzat, both single mothers, launched their “Let Them Be Self-Reliant” initiative to encourage children to become more independent. A first bazaar sale was organised of the products of such children on 14 July at Consoleya in Downtown Cairo.

In order to build the tenacity, grit, and self-reliance that are necessary for children to function in the world on their own, they must be challenged. Nesma Medhat Fahmi and Hebatallah Ezzat aim to help boys and girls build such skills by engaging in constructive and challenging activities, especially during the summer vacation, a time of year when children otherwise might be giving over their time to social media. 

“It all started one year ago as Heba found that we had both been thinking of doing something along these lines for kids. We talked and started to draw up the outlines of the initiative,” Fahmi said. 

Their own children, who enjoy activities like handicrafts and drawing, gave them the inspiration, and the two women started the project in order to help fill their children’s spare time and the time of their friends while also encouraging independence and self-reliance. At the initiative’s opening event, children’s handicrafts were sold in order to make money while they are on break.

Both women believe that the summer vacation should be used productively and not wasted by playing computer games or watching television. Instead, it should be filled with enjoyable activities that will promote a child’s overall development. Children have a fantastic chance to learn new skills and practices during this time.

“We have no official support, but some teenagers were happy to volunteer their help during the first event. Otherwise, all the work is done by me and Heba. But we were glad to have the media coverage we did for the initiative, which can also count as great support,” Fahmi said.

 “There were some challenges from some members of the audience at the event, who didn’t understand exactly what it was about. They even thought we were trying to benefit from child labour! Other people thought that we were doing it because we are both single mothers. There were some financial obstacles, and the initiative is self-funded. We gave the children who took part a nominal fee to cover their expenses,” she added.

The initiative offers affordable and discounted workshops with specialists to help children improve their skills and eventually how to start and market their brand. It will offer older children (15 plus) summer internships at recognised companies so they can learn about the job market and the responsibilities of employees. They also plan to hold a bazaar on a monthly basis during the summer vacation period. 

“I knew about the initiative from a Facebook group, so I made a subscription for my daughter Nada. It was very helpful. I liked how the kids interacted together at the first event and how each of them got together in one place,” commented Amira Hoballah, the mother of Nada Al-Ghazali, one of the initiative’s participants.

“The effect was very interesting as Nada is usually very shy, but on that day she was prepared to put herself forward. She was encouraged by seeing others who also have interests and passions of their own. Nada does crochet and she is a total self-learner,” her mother added.

“I would be willing to participate in the upcoming activities, and I’d love young artists like Nada, especially those who do things with their hands, to find encouragement and similar events.”

“I crochet and create products. I really enjoyed my participation at the event and the fact that I was able to show off my hard work and learn how to talk to customers,” Nada said.

“I experienced new things. During the summer vacation, I usually spend time with my family and reading, which is one of my favourite hobbies. Recently, I’ve been focusing on several crochet projects because I enjoy crocheting as well. I make personalised gifts for family and friends such as wall hangings, shawls, and cardigans.”

Ten-year-old Taher Ahmed and his twin brother Malek, both also participants at the event, make paintings and tie-dye products. “I was so happy to participate in the event, especially as I got the chance to sell my products. Usually, I spend the summer vacation playing soccer, taking Quran lessons, going out with my friends, and playing with my mobile or X-box,” Ahmed said, adding that he now has another interest.

His brother Malek said he makes “3D-patterned pencil cases and helps Taher choose his tie-dye colours and t-shirts. Nobody bought anything from us at first, but then people started to like our products,” he added.

“We got to know about the initiative through a friend who already knew that my kids make things and want to develop a business. I immediately contacted the initiative so that Taher and Malek could join,” commented their mother Radwa Medhat. 

“The initiative is a great idea, and a lot of work was put in before and during the event. Heba and Nesma were very keen that everything would come out perfectly. The kids were happy, walking around and looking at each other’s products and helping to motivate them more. They were super excited before the event,” Medhat said.

“We started preparing as if we were preparing for our own event. We worked on packing and created a logo and business cards. The boys learned how to start up something. They also learned how to deal with customers and how to communicate their business properly. They made some giveaways as a kind of marketing.”

“The day was super nice and fun, and all parents were engaged. We are looking forward to more events and activities. This event made my kids feel independent doing their own stuff and selling their own products,” she concluded.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 10 August, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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