Sunday February 11, 2018
On January 16th, 2018, Jomana Ismail and her team members embarked on the “Crossing Egypt Challenge”. The team of 4 young athletes crossed Egypt on foot from Aswan to Cairo in 23 days, to raise awareness on population growth. The challenge was sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Royal Norwegian Embassy, Ministry of Youth and other private companies.
Jomana, was the only female on the team that also included Helmy Elsaeed, Omar Hesham and Abdullah Hussein. She was informed about her selection to participate 10 days before it started. She wasn’t trained or physically ready for it, which added more challenge to her. The initial plan was for the team to walk for 10k/day, but she was pleasantly surprised at her ability to walk the whole 900km from Aswan to Cairo in 23 days, with an average of 40km/day. The team overnighted in hotels on the way. At the end of each walking day, they marked the spot where they stopped with a pin, and resumed their journey the following morning from where they left their mark.
Jomana says the challenge wasn’t easy. On days, she felt so much pain in her legs when she went to bed, she wasn’t sure she would be able to walk the following morning. But she did it, and she found the journey itself motivating. Renowned athlete Manal Rostom, joined them at the beginning and during the last 8 days to motivate and encourage them.
The walk allowed the team to meet new people every day and explore different cultures, traditions, and mindsets. Also, having a female on the team encouraged other females from the red crescent and physical education faculties in each of the governorates they visited to join the walk.
To raise awareness about the population growth, the main purpose of the challenge, the team visited Youth Sports Centers in each of the governorates on their way. The Ministry of Youth had planned full day programs which the team participated in. The programs included lectures and edutainment activities. The team played recreational games with the youth and the kids. They gave small talks about issues concerning population growth, importance of family planning, combating harmful practices against girls as female genital mutilation and early marriages.
Being part of the challenge expanded Jomana’s limits and encouraged other females to explore their limits as well.
The challenge ended in Cairo on February 8th, in time for the team to celebrate Egypt Youth Day the following day, held at the Gezira Youth Center and hosted by the Ministry of Youth.
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