Adoption, in its full definition of permanently taking a child into one’s home, giving them the family’s full surname, and making them a legal heir, is not allowed in Islam due to the importance of blood lineage in the religion.
The most practiced way of supporting orphans in Egypt is to financially sponsor children while placed in an orphanage, and as Egypt has over 1.7 million orphans, the government has been encouraging individuals and families to take children into their homes by amending the laws concerning kafala.
The amendments broadened the pool of candidates to include single women over the age of 30, divorcees and widowers and reduced the education level required. The update to the laws supports the Ministry of Social Solidarity’s plan for orphanages to be closed by 2025.
We spoke to Rasha Mekky, the creator of the Yalla Kafala initiative, which encourages families and individuals to support and take orphaned children home.
by Farah ElAbd
What led to the creation of Yalla Kafala?
Well, to answer your question, I need to give you a glimpse into my life before I first found my son, Mostafa, at an orphanage in Maadi. I did not even know kafala or adoption was available in Egypt, I found out from a friend after years of trying to conceive.
I’m talking about IVF sessions, thousands of dollars, heartbreak-after-heartbreak and severe depression. Had I known I could adopt, I would have done kafala well before I was 45 years old. I appreciate motherhood because I worked hard to achieve it.
Mostafa is my life, I can’t imagine my world without him, I found him when he was only 4 days old at the orphanage and visited him every day: from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. for one and a half months.
I spent time with my son and other children at the orphanage and when I took Mostafa home, I left behind more than 30 children. It broke my heart because I wanted these children to feel the love I feel for my son, I walked away from the orphanage with my son and a commitment to give every child a home.
To what extent does Yalla Kafala help the families and individuals who want to adopt?
Yalla Kafala is an initiative and we are in the process of establishing ourselves as an NGO in Egypt. Yalla Kafala supports families, couples or single mothers, living in Egypt and abroad through three phases:
- Pre-kafala: We answer questions they have about kafala, like what is kafala and what are the criteria for kafala
- During the kafala process: We guide families through the process or while they are applying for kafala on the required documents.
- Post-kafala: We support families who have already taken home their children by providing child-development workshops.
We help families, couples or single women, interested in kafala. We help families who have biological children, couples with no children and single women.
What are the main challenges facing those who want to adopt in Egypt?
Misconceptions; as being honest or outspoken about adopting is taboo. Yalla Kafala is working on raising awareness and eliminating this odd taboo. We don’t call it fostering; we use kafala and adoption interchangeably because it is a permanent guardianship, not temporary like fostering.
In kafala, as per Egyptian law, children don’t take the family’s full name, nor is there transference of inheritance, but parents can write children into their will.
How do adoption laws affect orphans, as well as those who want to adopt?
Children are meant to be in a loving home. I think of my experience with Mostafa; how amazing of a human being he is, I just look at him and never want to take my eyes off of him.
He taught me the meaning of love. He is the confident and intelligent person I know today because he has love, security, and the space to dream about a future.
In what ways have the updates to the adoption laws improved the adoption process?
When I adopted Mostafa, it took a year to finish the paperwork. Today, it takes around 3 to 4 months, meaning mothers don’t have to wait as long to take their child home.
What are the goals you want to achieve with Yalla Kafala?
I want to create a future and a society that’s proud of kafala children, I want every child to be loved the way I love Mostafa. Egyptians have big hearts and I believe my vision will come true.
We also spoke with Marwa Ali, a 43-year-old, who adopted her son as a single woman through kafala on her experience.
What words do you have for Egyptian single women who want to adopt, but are hesitant due to the possible judgments?
To any younger woman or older single woman who is thinking of kafala and is hesitant, I’m not going to fake words and say that your life will not change, or that it is not a huge responsibility. But I will tell you that you deserve to be a mother, to experience all the beautiful moments and feelings with your son or daughter.
Yes, it will be tiring, with a lot of effort, but you will enjoy those beautiful moments as much as the effort you put into them. Have faith in God and don’t hesitate, this is the best decision you can make in your life.