Female AYB entrepreneurs at a market

Creating employment opportunities for marginalised youth in Egypt

Every year on 8 March, the world observes International Women’s Day. This March, IKEA Social Entrepreneurship recognises the work of the female entrepreneurs we support. Join us every Friday this month as we celebrate some of these remarkable women and showcase how they’re contributing to a more sustainable and inclusive world.   

Today, we feature Raghda El Ebrashi, the founder and CEO of Alashanek Ya Balady in Egypt. Alashanek Ya Balady (meaning For My Country) bridges the gap between privilege and poverty and creates employment opportunities for marginalised youth across the country.  

Alashanek Ya Balady is supported by the fourth edition of the Dela programme, a global systems change accelerator co-created by IKEA Social Entrepreneurship and Ashoka

Bridging the gap through education and compassion

Egypt’s young population — those between 16 and 25 years old — holds immense potential to shape the nation’s future. However, studies have shown alarming youth unemployment rates, with an estimated 25 per cent of young men and 59 per cent of young women without work.   

The root causes of this issue lie in the need for appropriate soft and technical skills, such as English proficiency and IT skills, which are crucial for employment opportunities. There’s also a mismatch between the educational system’s outcomes and the labour market’s requirements, leaving youth ill-prepared for the job market.  

Led by Raghda El Ebrashi, AYB (Alashanek Ya Balady) has developed a model that caters to the needs of the corporate sector and youth, effectively bridging the gap by creating jobs for young people and women from marginalised groups.  

Encountering a different reality

At 12, Raghda embarked on her first school trip outside Cairo to Bel-bayes, Sharkeya. There, she encountered Om Fathy, a gentle older woman who worked as a cleaning lady. This experience marked Raghda’s introduction to a different reality she had not seen before.  

Touched by Om Fathy’s kindness, Raghda accepted her invitation to visit her home, where she gained insight into a life of hardship previously unimaginable to her. Despite their differing backgrounds, Raghda found herself welcomed into Om Fathy’s family circle, forming a bond that endured until Om Fathy’s final days.  

Guided by Om Fathy’s wisdom, Raghda learned that true change transcends mere charity; it’s about genuine human connection and reciprocal support. This principle inspired her to establish AYB, a pioneering student club focused on sustainable development efforts rather than traditional charity initiatives. 

From student club to national organisation 

Throughout high school, Raghda collaborated with various organisations, including those associated with Ashoka Fellows, who fueled her passion for social change. Upon graduation, Raghda chose to dedicate her career to the social sector, recognising the limitations of traditional business models in addressing societal challenges.  

AYB serves the corporate sector by selecting, training, and mentoring employees from marginalised communities who would otherwise not have access to the labour market. The organisation creates income-generation opportunities in the informal sector by offering training and microcredit to young men and women to start their own projects and truly view themselves as changemakers.   

What began as a student club involving youth in development activities is now a Central Office with affiliated student clubs in Cairo’s leading universities based on a franchise system. The franchise system allows for swift model replication and replicated impact. While each franchise is responsible for following the founding principles and operating procedures as AYB, the student leadership of each franchise has control over which social challenges to address according to its constituency.    

AYB-SD header
AYB-SD partners with different stakeholders to provide access for young people and women to the required skills and competencies that develop their capacities and enhance their employability potential.
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Empowering the next generation of changemakers

AYB, as Raghda imagined, is now a change engine for people on both sides of the equation: the volunteers and the people who find jobs.  

Today, she leads AYB and teaches strategic management at the German University in Cairo. She’s also pursuing a PhD in social entrepreneurship, and her goal is to embed social entrepreneurship into university curricula across Egypt, fostering a new generation of changemakers committed to lasting impact.  

Over the years, Raghda’s work at AYB has gained various awards and recognition. She is a Synergos Social Entrepreneur, a recipient of the King Abdullah II Award for Youth Innovation and Achievement, a recipient of the 35 Under 35 Award, given by World Business Magazine and the Shell Corporation for the top female social entrepreneurs in the world, and was recognised by the United Nations Development Program as one of the 100 leading social entrepreneurs under 30 in 2007.  

AYB is committed to creating a brighter future for Egypt’s youth and the nation, impacting around 2,000 direct and 8,000 indirect beneficiaries annually. Through the Dela programme, we’re supporting AYB to scale its impact through a new strategy focusing on formal vocational education in collaboration with the government and private sector.