Women from around the world discover tools for confidence

July 27. 2016 11:39PM
Balika Chaudhary of Nepal uses a power sander as Vera Weah of Liberia watches at Girls at Work Inc. in Manchester on Wednesday. The World Affairs Organization of New Hampshire invited 25 delegates from across the world to visit the shop in Manchester. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — Power can be derived from using power tools.

Two dozen women from around the world — visiting the United States on an international leadership program — stopped by an Elm Street nonprofit organization Wednesday to hear about and test-drive a power tool or two.

Deniz Bayram, a lawyer for a women’s rights group in Turkey, said she never used a power drill before some hands-on demonstrations at Girls at Work, which helps at-risk students by using power tools to build self-esteem and confidence.

“The feeling was empowering,” Bayram said.

Amany ElSawy, a lecturer at Alexandria University in Egypt, relished the chance to drill, pointing her left index finger in the air as she wielded the drill into the air with her right hand.

ElSawy said some schools in Egypt are segregated by gender, while others are mixed.

“Women can’t be carpenters,” she said. “Of course, it’s not fair at all.”

She said girls can do anything, but “the problem is the majority of the girls are not aware of their ability.”

ElSawy said she will try to form some collaboration to produce a program similar to the one at Girls at Work, so girls back home can “believe in their power.”

Elaine Hamel, founder and program director for Girls At Work Inc., told the group that girls younger than 10 are making bookcases or picnic tables.

“It’s not about the building,” she said. “It’s the building up of them.”

Executive Director Dena Stahlheber said girls often believe they can’t accomplish certain things, but learning to build things “changes that inner dialogue and makes it a positive one.”

Evernice Munando, visting from Zimbabwe, recalled how she was the only woman in a carpentry and wood machinery class of 36.

She heard people say, “Why are you in this field of men?,” but she said, “I challenged that.”

“Women’s issues are a global issue,” said Munando, the national director of a group seeking to empower female college and university students. “Support each other in our situations because it’s a global call.”

The group, which departs New Hampshire Thursday, also made stops at the University of New Hampshire and Southern New Hampshire University as part of the U.S. Department of State program. Boston, Washington and Denver are among other stops on the three-week trip.

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