In Egypt, young people aged 10-29 make up 40 percent of the population. Yet social taboos against young people's sexuality and human rights, combined with growing gender discrimination and incidences of harassment and violence, create an atmosphere of pervading silence and secrecy about youth's - and especially young women's - sexual behaviour. This makes it extremely difficult for young Egyptians to reach the critical information on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) that they need to stay healthy and safe.
Young people in Egypt also stand at the forefront of a technological revolution. Thanks in large part to decreasing costs, access to the Internet has increased exponentially, and mobile phone penetration reached 100 percent in 2012. At the time of the 2011 revolution, blogs represented the most prominent form of peer-to-peer communication among young people in Egypt. There could not be a better time for a Learning about Living style project in the North African country.
What is Ma3looma?
Since April 2013, Ma3looma has been working to connect young people and at-risk populations to anonymous, accurate, and non-judgmental information about their health and rights using OneWorld's mobile phone and web-based question-and-answer service, which is managed and staffed by trained counsellors from the Egyptian Family Health Service (EFHS).
These services increase the availability of safe yet vibrant spaces where young and at-risk people can access comprehensive, rights-based information while also airing their thoughts and opinions on the issues most important to them. Ultimately, such opportunities will improve sexual and reproductive health and rights, while reducing inequalities, stigma, and discrimination.
So far, all signs indicate that Egyptian youth are eager to take advantage of these resources, particularly those offered online. By April 2015, the Ma3looma Facebook page had nearly 700,000 likes. The Ma3looma website gets around 200,000 views a month with nearly 2 Million unique page views in 2 years. Among the most popular content were articles such as, "Marital Relationship" and "Condoms - Between Rejection and Practice".
We also recorded this reaction in July 2014 on social media:
“Today, I attended a UNAIDS meeting on the post 2015 agenda. The most amazing part from this was that when it came to social media or web-based services ‘Ma3looma’ was mentioned as the only leading brand name in the field of Sexual and Reproductive Health in Egypt by different representatives of NGOs and youth organisations.”
One of our counsellors Walaa Ismail used her experience with Ma3looma to enter the Social Innovation in a Digital Context Master's programme at Lund University.
Ma3looma is implemented by a collaborative network of actors, including OneWorld UK, the Egypt-based Centre for Development Services (CDS), which is responsible for the financial management of the project, the Egyptian Family Health Society (EFHS), which manages the mobile phone messaging service, as well as the UNFPA's Youth Peer Network (Y-PEER), Friends of Life (FoL), the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), and Qabila TV.
Funding for the project has been provided by the Ford Foundation. The Learning about Living concept was developed by OneWorld UK and Butterfly Works Netherlands in 2007 and has since been introduced in Nigeria, Senegal, Morocco, Mali, and more recently, Cambodia.
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