In February 2015, Egyptian journalist Safaa Mohamed Abdelhamid and five colleagues founded the first network in Egypt to help media women connect, receive advanced training and discuss gender-related obstacles such as discrimination and harassment at the workplace. The union now has more than 1,000 members and aims to improve the situation for women working in a predominantly male profession. In just over a year, the Union of Media Women in Egypt has conducted more than 100 workshops for fresh journalism graduates in all the country's provinces. The initiative is now being recognized with a "Responsible Leader's Award 2016" by the German BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt.
Is there a lack of opportunities for women working in Egypt's media sector?
Safaa Mohamed Abdelhamid, journalist and co-founder of the Union of Media Women in Egypt
There's definitely a lack of training options - women simply don't have the same opportunities as men do. That's why we offer workshops for media women to advance their journalism skills and to show how they can take on leadership roles. We aim for the women to gain confidence and we also promote the idea of teamwork.
Is the situation for women living outside of Cairo or in rural areas more difficult than it is for those living in the capital?
Yes, it often is. Rural women are particularly affected because it's harder for them to access education. I myself grew up in Ras Ghareb in the Red Sea governorate. When I moved to Cairo to study media, I found that the women who were getting ahead were those who were wealthy and had good connections in the city. What motivated you to co-found the Union of Media Women in Egypt?
I took part in a series of DW Akadamie workshops called " Women's Voices
" that was held in 2014 in Cairo. The trainings gave us, as women journalists, room to discuss gender issues, and to identify obstacles and ways to overcome them. These workshops, as well as my own background, inspired me to tackle issues like these and to help women get ahead. Others face discrimination. What are the Union's goals?
Participants of DW Akademie's "Women's Voices" workshop
We aim to reach media women all over Egypt in order to form a network, and to offer female journalism graduates advanced professional training. We provide training in all aspects of media work, ranging from media ethics and journalists' safety, to overcoming trauma. We're also aiming to create the first union for African media women and to publish a magazine that looks at how women are stereotyped in the media.
Has the situation for journalists and media professionals in Egypt changed since the Arab Spring?
Yes, it has. It's becoming increasingly dangerous for all journalists, but we feel a great responsibility towards helping women in particular. Although there's still much work to do, I'm convinced that we'll reach our goals if we continue to work together.