On 4 December 2013, South Valley University hosted the first Girls’ Day at an Egyptian university, an open day for schoolgirls at the university. One hundred female students from four preparatory and secondary schools in Qena attended the event that was conducted under the auspices of Prof. Dr. Abbas Mansour, President of South Valley University, and Prof. Dr. Sayed Taha, Vice President for Social Affairs and Environmental Development. It was organized by Prof. Dr. Jehan Ragab, Manager of the University’s Equal Opportunity Center and its team.
The Girls’ Day at South Valley University offered schoolgirls the opportunity to gain an insight into different faculties and departments at the university and into academic life in general. This should contribute to awaken and promote their interest for university departments at which women are usually underrepresented, especially in the higher positions like professorships, heads of department, and deans. It also aimed to show them an academic career as a possible job option.
The female students were distributed to several workshops at eight different faculties, including among others the Faculty of Science, the Faculty of Engineering, and the Faculty of Agriculture. Staff members of the departments gave the girls a guided tour through the labs and facilities of the faculties and expained small experiments and technical devices used in teaching and research.
The idea to organize a Girls’ Day arose in the context of the project “Gender Equality in the Egyptian Higher Education System”, a cooperation between Freie Universität Berlin and four Egyptian universities. Freie Universität Berlin has participated in the nationwide “Girls’ Day – Future Prospects for Girls” since 2002. Having started with 100 schoolgirls in the first year, the number of participants has reach about 1000 now.
South Valley University also intends to slowly increase the number of participants and involved departments in the coming years. Educating women and introducing them to academic life is very important, especially in Upper Egypt, the project team agreed. The representatives of Freie Universität Berlin, who visited South Valley University on the occasion of the Girls’ Day, were impressed by the good organization and the enthusiasm of the participants. Silvia Arlt, who works in the Office of the Chief Gender Equality Officer of Freie Universität Berlin, emphasized: “With regard to the Girls’ Day, South Valley University can serve as a role model for other Egyptian universities.”