For adults, ongoing technical and vocational education plays a pivotal role in teaching life-changing skills to both genders. Courses on farming techniques, sustainable development training, supply chain management, financial literacy and money management are accompanied by gender awareness training. Konstanze Abouleish, Commercial Manager for NATURE TEX - an organic textile company belonging to SEKEM - explains that ‘Awareness Days’ give men and women an equal opportunity to voice discomfort and help develop collaboration.
SEKEM’s children’s nursery, built in 2013, frees up local women to study, work and earn their own income without having to worry about childcare. And at the top end of the educational journey is SEKEM’s Heliopolis University. Graduates have included female physicians who have gone on to run SEKEM’s pharmacy and health clinic, which provide affordable services to over 41,000 people.
My last day in Egypt is spent celebrating SEKEM’s 39th anniversary where men, women, boys and girls share sentiments about equality and respect. I am struck by how innovatively SEKEM has used social impact investing to build an education system that addresses issues of gender inequality at its roots, at the same time as developing a system of sustainable work and economic growth for previously disadvantaged farming communities.
Yet, I am also reminded of how much more the investment community might need to step up if we are all to reach the UN’s global goals thirteen short years from now.