‘Young people are the backbone of our economy’

Giving back to the community. That’s what Salma El-Fawal at the Dutch embassy in Cairo wants to achieve with her work. As programme manager for development cooperation, she is committed to empowering underprivileged young people and women and improving their work prospects. ‘I want to help improve their quality of life.’

‘Women and young people in Upper Egypt are the ones who inspire me the most. They are the country’s poorest people; their needs are greatest. They have very limited access to education, income and social protection. Yet even though their life is hard, they remain optimistic and resilient. I think everyone can learn from that.’ 

Salma El-Fawal uitgelicht

‘Ever since I was a little girl, I have had a strong sense of justice. I wanted to do something that had a positive impact on Egypt. That’s why I studied globalisation and development in London. After I got my master’s degree I realised how much I wanted to contribute to my community. Back in Egypt I found a job at a UN organisation. There I started to focus on youth empowerment. Finally I could do work that helped other people.’

Real partnership

‘I have been working at the Dutch embassy in Cairo for five years now. I started out as a gender expert, but over the years my range of duties has expanded. I’m currently responsible for overseeing and coordinating the embassy’s development cooperation programmes. The embassy has a strong commitment to gender equality. In Egypt, few women participate in the economy; we are trying to change that with our projects. I’ll never forget the day when one of the women told me how the project had helped her move ahead in life. She won the elections in her union and is now the secretary-general. The local organisations we support always see their collaboration with the embassy as a real partnership.’

Job opportunities

‘At the embassy we also want to promote education and improve work prospects for young people. Egypt has a very young population and poverty is widespread. With our projects we want to create as many job opportunities as possible so people can play a productive role in the economy. For example, last year we launched an entrepreneurship programme at a public university in Upper Egypt. Most of the students come from small villages and want to make something of themselves.’



‘Recently the embassy, together with our colleagues from the Orange Corners Programme, organized a #StartEGYPTup panel discussion in order to encourage entrepreneurship in Egypt. About 150 people from universities, companies, governmental institutions, UN organisations and NGOs joined our interactive session. With our work we want to inspire young people and women to start careers as entrepreneurs. As we see it, entrepreneurship contributes to inclusive economic growth and financial freedom. With every business venture launched, there is a huge potential for job creation.’

Not only for privileged people

‘There’s still a lot of work to be done. In Egypt we have a vibrant ecosystem, but it’s not inclusive. It only reaches privileged people. This is why I think a lot more needs to be done to engage the private sector, local organisations and government. We have to convince them that they too can benefit from contributing to this cause, while giving back to the community. I would like to reach even wider groups and help improve their quality of life.’  

Salma El-Fawal is programme manager for development cooperation at the Dutch embassy in Cairo, Egypt.