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Focus on Egypt and the Lydia Project

A new generation seeks to change tradition.

As early as age 12, many Egyptian girls marry the cousins to whom they have been promised from a young age. Before the “Arab Spring” of 2011 the Egyptian Parliament even discussed the possibility of lowering the legal marriage age to 9 years old. Although the practice is legally banned, 80-85 percent of these young Egyptian girls are still ritually circumcised. Outside of information from their older brothers and sisters, these children know little about marriage, and less still about raising their own children when they give birth shortly after puberty or marriage (whichever comes last). Few of these girls know how they became pregnant or understand the realities of giving birth. Not many know how to read or write or have any type of skill or any hope of building a better life beyond the the traditions that they know.

Into this picture walked “Lydia,” a certified “doula” and soon-to-be certified natural childbirth educator, who created and operates “Lydia’s Family Center,” not far from the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt. The Lydia Center focuses on developing new traditions by educating families in practices not normally followed within the culture, including prenatal nutrition, pregnancy exercise and labor, natural childbirth, and breastfeeding. Fathers-to-be learn how to change diapers, wash their babies, and lovingly engage with their newborns. Drawing on the expertise of volunteer Egyptian OB-GYN and pediatric specialists, the Center also hosts a monthly well-baby clinic with baby weigh-ins, and pregnancy and newborn photographs by an award-winning photographer. “Mommy and Me” classes for young mothers and their youngsters, along with Arabic literacy classes and “cottage business” training, enable young moms to help support their families. The cottage business training provided for these young women is—of all things—quilting. Lydia, a retired interior designer and avid quilter, teaches the art of quilting, a skill mothers can use at home to earn extra money for their families.

Lydia’s work at the Family Center has drawn the attention of a new, private, state-of-the-art maternity hospital in the city where Lydia lives. 2016 birthed a collaborative relationship with the center seeking to become the premier natural childbirth center in Egypt.* This is an ideal fit for Lydia who has become an increasingly influential thought-leader in natural child-birth in Egypt.

Now with REI’s help, Lydia will sponsor a 2-day conference on natural childbirth/waterbirth at the maternity center in August of 2017. Leading the conference is Barbara Harper, a world-renown childbirth educator, a leading voice for childbirth and maternity care reform, and internationally recognized expert on the use of warm water immersion for labor and birth. Ms. Harper is also the founder of Waterbirth International. The Cairo event is listed on Waterbirth International’s website Participate financially in the Cairo conference by clicking here. Under “Invest in REI’s Staff Today,” scroll down to “Flowers (Lydia)”, and then continue to fill out the “Contact Information” form. You will receive a tax-deductible receipt.

It has been said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Growing beyond centuries of tradition begins with little practices for the first generation. Lydia is on the verge of helping to begin a new tradition, and perhaps an emerging trend, for this generation of Egyptian wives and mothers! Thank you for all you do to make it possible for REI, and this “little ol’ grandma from Phoenix,” to “build people to build nations.”

*An estimated 60 percent of Egyptian babies are born Caesarian, and in Cairo and suburbs up to 70 percent!

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