What does it mean “to volunteer?” Volunteering is acting on one’s own free will while expecting nothing in return. It often comes from the selfless desire to help.
Zainab (not her real name) was beaten by her husband almost daily. But in traditional, Islamist Egyptian society it’s not so simple for a woman to file a complaint.
Enter the Women’s Center for Guidance and Legal Awareness and its head, Clarion Project friend Reda Eldanbouki. Having seen just how difficult it is for people to come forward, particularly in poorer areas, Reda decided it was high time for someone to do something to make their lives that little bit easier.
Just a week ago, Reda and his team took to the roads with 10 vehicles in what he’s dubbed the Mobile Legal Clinic. The idea is to help those most in need – free of charge.
Anyone can call the clinic helpline and someone from the team will visit the caller at their home. The advice they get includes legal rights and obligations and how to behave when dealing with governmental bodies.
“It’s an idea that came to me to help the downtrodden and poor – those who can’t find justice on their own,” says Reda, a gently-spoken lawyer from Mansoura, a city not too far from Alexandria.
For now, the mobile fleet operates in two Egyptian provinces, but the Center wants to reach as many people as possible. Reda says the phone lines are already inundated with calls from Egypt’s needy.
One woman contacted Reda after a hotel was opened by her home. It overlooks her property and has proved to be quite a nuisance. A Center expert told her to lodge a complaint and sue for compensation.
Those afraid of reprisals for meeting with a mobile team at their homes can also visit a Center office or meet on neutral ground.
“All this costs is a telephone call,” Reda tells Clarion Project. “Many people only have enough for a basic insufficient meal each day.”
Not only is this initiative about advice but also acting on behalf of the disenfranchised. Center staffers will file complaints at police stations on behalf of complainants or attend court hearing in their stead.
“This is not only about offering a free service but also spreading a culture of volunteerism in Egyptian society,” says Reda.
Not only that, this approach spreads awareness of legal rights and options available to all Egyptian citizens.
Dua’a (not her real name) was at her wits end when she learned of Reda’s mobile fleet. Her family tried to coerce her into quitting college and marrying her first cousin. The Center is attempting to get her out of the house and into dorms.
Right now Reda’s teams simply can’t cope with the welter of pleas for help. In Egypt, it’s never-ending. Imagine what expanding this type of work could do in a misogynistic, antiquated society such as Egypt’s. Where people understand their rights and have the wherewithal to change their lives there’s less anger, frustration and depression and society as a whole gets stronger.
If you’d like to make a donation, however small, please contact Reda Eldanbouki at [email protected].