USAID Egypt’s Local Scholarship Program Is Empowering the Next Generation of Women Leaders
Higher education is essential for promoting the exchange of knowledge and innovation, and equipping youth with the 21st-century skills necessary to succeed in global labor markets.1 Global enrollment in higher education has more than doubled over the last two decades, and in most countries, women have accessed higher education in greater if not equal, numbers. Despite this progress, data shows women still face challenges in accessing employment post-graduation.
Women remain highly underrepresented in professional, technical, and managerial roles in Egypt, and in positions they do hold, typically earn 22 percent of the income of men.2 Recognizing that higher education is instrumental for human capital development and national economic growth,3 the Egyptian government expanded higher education access across the country beginning in the 1990s.4 Now, women outnumber men in higher education institutions in Egypt by 52 to 48 percent. Yet despite these efforts, social and cultural norms continue to perpetuate gender inequality nationwide.
USAID Egypt’s Local Scholarship Program – Private (LSP Private), one of several scholarship programs offered by USAID in Egypt, provides an example of USAID’s efforts to ensure that women gain leadership and soft skills to support their access to employment. The program invests in and empowers students, particularly young women, in higher education settings and beyond.
Yara, a recent graduate of USAID’s Egypt LSP Private, found that the USAID-funded activity supported her access to higher education with the scholarship, helped her develop relevant skills, and prepared her to land her dream job working in academia post-graduation.
“[Egypt’s Local Scholarship Program] prepared me professionally for the job market by teaching me how to write a CV/resume, how to do well in a job interview, to have personal branding, and even build a network.”
USAID’s LSP Private awards scholarships to young women and men from underserved communities throughout Egypt to study at non-public Egyptian universities in fields critical to Egypt’s sustained economic growth and development.5 The LSP Private also provides students networking opportunities, leadership skills, and career guidance to succeed in the Egyptian labor market when they graduate.6 Notably, the program organizes gender-focused scholar sessions on topics related to the gender experience, communicating about gender, and women’s empowerment7 to counter gender barriers otherwise prevalent in academic and professional settings.
An evaluation of the program found that scholarship recipients were more likely to be women students (56.25 percent), and fewer than half of scholarship winners had college-educated parents (40.63 percent). Scholarship recipients reported better grades, greater rates of employment, and higher monthly earnings than non-program students, according to recent evaluations.
The LSP Private scholarship program has also supported students’ personal growth, prepared them for university life and beyond, and helped them set goals and develop personal agency. Women, in particular, have benefited from the leadership opportunities and empowerment training available through the program. Yara said, “I have been trained in communication skills, how to be an effective team member, be an active listener, adapt to different situations, and accept different people. All of these topics and even more, made me feel responsible towards my community, so I lead and participate in many projects that help youth with less access to opportunities, especially females, not only in Egypt but also in the Mediterranean region.”
USAID’s investment in the LSP Private aligns with USAID’s Gender and Women’s Empowerment Strategy’s four strategic objectives of reducing gender disparities, increasing women’s and girls’ personal agency, advancing structural changes that address the root causes of gender inequality, and promoting equitable gender norms. This program is an example of USAID’s broader commitment to advancing gender equality in and through education around the world, with the goal of improving access to education and learning for 15 million girls and young women by 2025 and increasing their capability to fully exercise their rights, determine their life outcomes, and assume leadership roles going forward.
To learn more about USAID LSP Private and related programming, please visit the following resources:
- Primer on Expanding Women’s Access to Higher Education
- USAID Higher Education Programming in Egypt
- USAID Education FY21 Data Brief: Advancing Higher Education
- USAID Education FY21 Data Brief: Advancing Gender Equality in and Through Education
- USAID Local Scholarship Program (updated report forthcoming)
- 1 UNESCO, April 2023, “What you need to know about higher education,” https://www.unesco.org/en/higher-education/need-know#:~:text=It%20promotes%20the%20exchange%20of,security%20and%20a%20stable%20future.
- 2IFC, 2017. Empowering Egyptian Women is Vital to Fueling Growth and Creating Jobs: https://pressroom.ifc.org/all/pages/PressDetail.aspx?ID=16679
- 3USAID, n.d., “Higher Education,” https://www.usaid.gov/egypt/higher-education.
- 4Richards, Alan. February 1992, “Higher Education in Egypt,” https://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/ar/163341468770080097/pdf/multi-page.pdf.
- 5USAID, n.d., “Gender Goal #2 (COVID Response) Education Country of Emphasis: Egypt,” USAID Egypt and The Power of International Education, 2022, “Local Scholarship Program (LSP) – Private: Quarterly Report,” https://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PA00ZG25.pdf. Updated Report Forthcoming.
- 6USAID and Supporting Holistic & Actionable Research in Education, June 2023, “Egypt Local Scholarship Program for Non-Public Universities End of Term Evaluation,” (Forthcoming).
- 7USAID Egypt and The Power of International Education, 2022, “Local Scholarship Program (LSP) – Private: Quarterly Report,” https://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PA00ZG25.pdf.