In the three short years since the Arab Spring, Tunisians elected a constituent assembly that drafted and passed a new Constitution, and the country recently held free and fair elections in which a new Parliament and President were elected. Despite ongoing violence in the Middle East, Tunisia continues to be a beacon of hope for the region. It was named the first free Arab country in the Middle East and North Africa region by Freedom House.
Despite recent reports highlighting the increasing discrimination against women in Egypt, the Women’s Initiative Fellows are courageously facing these challenges. Building upon the leadership training and skills they received during the U.S. portion of the Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative Fellowship, the Fellows are actively working to improve their communities and country. We believe these women will continue to play a powerful role in effecting change in their communities and are proud of their accomplishments. Individually, these women are strong; as a class, they form a resilient circle with a powerful vision for the future of their beloved country.
“Think globally, act locally.”
Afraa joined the 2014 Women’s Initiative Fellowship with a strong belief that education is not only the key to unlock the door to freedom, but also a responsibility that society owes itself. Upon returning to Tunisia after the U.S. portion of the Fellowship, Afraa began volunteering her time as an English language for beginners teacher at a primary school in a disadvantaged area of Tunisia. It was there that the idea of creating the “Tunisian Association for Truancy and Dropout Prevention,” TATDP, was born. TATDP exists to help children in underserved areas pursue their education, enjoy their full rights as citizens, and decrease the number of school dropouts and truancy in Tunisia.
Amira is the founder and head of Kairouanese for the Culture of Citizenship, a non-profit organization that works to create positive social change and promote development in her hometown of Kairouan, Tunisia. Two years ago, Amira launched the first phase of the Women’s Enterprise for Sustainability program through her organization. As a result of the program, her team trained more than 50 aspiring and established female entrepreneurs, helping them to gain core skills, launch and expand businesses, and assume roles as innovative leaders in their respective communities.
In October 2014, Amira’s organization successfully launched phase two of the program. Kairouanese partnered with the Tunisian Association for Management and Social Stability, TAMSS, to design and launch the Karama (Dignity) program sponsored by the British Council. The program provides a safe place for female victims of domestic violence and helps empower them by providing assistance, support, and reliable resources.
Amira was also actively involved in the recent election process by training more than 100 young men and women in election observation. Her team worked to ensure the transparency and integrity of the legislative and presidential elections.
Amira is a university teacher and as part of her research, she succeeded in publishing two scientific papers on American studies that were featured in two French literary journals.
“The Women's Initiative Fellowship program has further strengthened my determination to be a change-maker.”
In 2012, Amira left her job as an Executive Director at a Language Training Center in Tunis to begin freelancing. When she joined the Fellowship in 2014, her dream was to start her own business with innovative methods of teaching language and communication skills.
Amira credits the courses at Southern Methodist University with developing her vision, creating a mission statement, and developing an action plan to effectively achieve her dream. Upon returning to Tunis in April 2014, Amira immediately began implementing the skills she acquired from the Fellowship. After 7 months of hard work, she officially opened her Center for Language and Intercultural Solutions, ICEBERG, the first training provider in Tunisia which specializes in Intercultural Training. ICEBERG's mission is to strengthen the position of organizations and businesses in the global market by equipping their employees with the communication, leadership, and managerial skills required to work effectively across linguistic and cultural boundaries.
Amira is using the communication and networking skills she learned through the Women’s Initiative Fellowship on a daily basis to develop and maintain strong client relationships. She believes in the power of cross-cultural communication in advocating change, implementing social and political inclusion, and equality. She feels that cultural awareness and understanding is the best weapon to combat all forms of extremism and discrimination.
She recently began as a facilitator for the Connect Program, an education program that has been implemented in over 100 universities in 27 countries across the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, Europe, and North America.
Her next goal is to start a program for building 21st century skills in children and youth, including critical thinking, cross-cultural communication, and media literacy skills, vital in an increasingly interconnected world.
Asma created a small company, Kokola, dedicated to pet care and accessories. From the beginning, Asma felt it was important for Kokola to solely employ women to afford them a more stable living by working independently outside of large manufacturers. Kokola is based on a fair trade model and aims to help women improve their income and empower women to start their own small businesses with their earnings.
Asma has seen a return on her investment by employing young, Tunisian women. In 2014, she hired four additional women employees and developed a network to grow her business by investing in other female-run companies within her industry. Specifically, Asma partnered with a female-run manufacturing company in Tunisia, paying half of the company’s rent and salaries of two workers. This partnership benefited both companies by giving the manufacturing company a stable demand, providing better prices and higher quality products for Kokola.
In addition to her business, Asma is a professor. She encourages her students in the classroom to build a stronger civil society by cascading the skills she learned during her year in the Fellowship. Asma reports: “One of my best moments of 2014 was when one of my students returned to the university after a year with jihadist ideology and groups. He asked me to direct his final project, which was a movie about the absence of culture in his hometown, the island of Djerba. He produced a short film. At the end of the year when he presented it, everyone was crying because he was coming back from this extremist ideology. He sent me a message telling me how grateful he was and that he felt that my classes had saved him. That's every professor's dream -- to have an impact on our students.”
“Don’t let anybody take away your dream.”
Early in her career as a civil engineer, Dalel decided that she “didn’t want to work only with roads and stones.” Instead, she wanted a human approach, and she began to devote herself to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that emphasized better lives for women.
Today, as Tunisia begins its journey toward a democratic civil society, Dalel is concentrating her efforts on ways to expand the role of women in politics. She dedicates her time to building a community “committed to gender equality in politics.” Her immediate goal is to identify and support female candidates who can run for office and “win elections.”
In 2014, Dalel was elected as the president of Sfax’s Commission of Election. Dalel determined that her Fellowship action plan would focus on increasing participation of Tunisian women in politics. In preparation for the Tunisian parliamentary elections in October 2014, she registered more than 3,500 women to vote. On August 13, 2014, the National Day of Women in Tunisia, Dalel and her team traveled to the city of Chaffar where they canvassed the city and gave out 1,000 roses to women. Each rose contained a message to vote. She registered over 120 female candidates for the national elections, and then trained these candidates to campaign and to govern.
When the parliamentary election was held in October 2014, Sfax had the second highest rate of voter participation in all of Tunisia. Dalel was publicly credited with the success of her own party, which won four of the nine parliamentary seats, due to her “commitment and hard work.” She says, “Being the only woman, president of a regional campaign, made me feel so proud and confident that they will include more women in the future.”
Dalel credits her Fellowship experience with helping her to pursue her interest in politics, saying that her time as a Women’s Initiative Fellow has taught her “the A, B, C, Ds of success.” ‘A’ means to “add more value to the table, to bring something new that others have not.” ‘B’ emphasizes “be passionate,” you need to believe in and love what you are doing in order to succeed. ‘C’ stands for “be connected,” because visits to companies like Google and Facebook taught her the value of building wide networks and sharing information and contacts and joining together for support. Dalel says, her last lesson, “‘D’ is being taught to ‘go for my dream.’”
“This program helped me determine my purpose.”
Dorra is passionate about women’s education and advocacy. While she has experienced setbacks during her year in the Fellowship, she feels that it has been a year of personal growth. Dorra used the lessons from her time in the program, network of Fellows and her mentor to identify, shape, and clarify her purpose. She learned an important lesson in leadership: to persevere through setbacks.
Dorra is working to create a social business group and online platform for women in disadvantaged areas. She notes, “I realized I could cascade this vision throughout the next years of my life to other women – one woman at a time.”
“Leadership is a choice, not a gift.”
Emna was no stranger to the United States. She had traveled to America several times, including as a Fulbright Scholar while working on her Ph.D. When she was selected as a Women’s Initiative Fellow, she was “not so sure it would be a life-changing experience for me.” Instead, after her five weeks in the U.S., she called it “a milestone in my life” and a “transformational experience.”
Emna’s passion is education reform, but her struggle was how to reach more of Tunisia’s 2.3 million children, impacting people on a large scale beyond the 300 kids in her own secondary school and the students she taught as a Professor at Sfax University. A trip to Google in California’s Silicon Valley and a meeting with the Google-X group, which pioneers Google’s “moon-shot ideas,” such as the self-driving car, led Emna to ask what are “my own moon-shot ideas and my own wide dreams?” She returned to Tunisia determined to create an education campus, where any child, male or female, can arrive at age 4 and leave at 21 having learned the skills that will prepare him or her for the global job market and for jobs that have not yet been created.
Upon her return to Tunisia in April 2014, she started putting her moon-shot ideas into action. She developed a new leadership curriculum for Sfax University based on what she had learned at Southern Methodist University during her Fellowship. And she and her business partner opened another private secondary school in Sfax. Their two schools have 430 students and employ 36 teachers, many of whom are women. Private funds allow students to pay minimal tuition, giving an opportunity to many who might otherwise not be able to afford school. Emna’s schools also teach to the whole student, emphasizing not just academics but also social responsibility projects where students and parents work together to improve their community. One recent project provided basic supplies and funds for local orphanages. Finally, she has created an online portal to bring together teachers, thought leaders, community members, parents, and other Tunisians to discuss education policy and issues.
Emna’s ultimate dream is to become “a real decision maker in my country,” to run for political office with “education at the center of my political platform.” She believes if you want to have economic success, you first need education, and that if you want to change a mindset, you first need education.
The Fellowship taught her both practical skills and to believe in future success. “I learned that I have to ‘own’ my own path. I learned to take thoughtful risks, and finally I learned that I should always say, ‘Yes, and…’ not ‘Yes, but.’”
Fedia began working for international non-profit organizations in March 2011. With her experience at the United Nations Development Program and the Foundation for the Future, she managed activities that provided financial and technical support and assistance.
Upon returning to Tunisia after the U.S. portion of the Fellowship, she assumed a new role as a Senior Grants Manager within a new company. In this role, she works to promote capacity building programs in Libya that enhance transparency among municipalities.
Fedia was actively involved in the parliamentary and presidential elections in 2014 in Tunisia through election observation. She invited 15 women from her personal network to join her in managing a polling station in Tunisia.
“The best gift I can ever receive is the precious trust of my clients.”
Frida is a clinical psychologist and a researcher in the field of trauma. She currently works for an international NGO in Tunisia that aims at improving and protecting the rights of migrants.
Inspired by her experience providing psychosocial support to the refugees of the Choucha Camp on the Tunisian-Libyan border in March 2011, she decided to combine her passion for clinical psychology and writing upon returning to Tunisia in April 2014. Frida has dedicated herself to advocating for migrants and their families and educating others through her articles on the impact of trauma they have suffered.
Through the Women’s Initiative Fellowship program, Frida has learned that ‘no dream is too big’ and ‘one must dare to jump’ in order to be fulfilled. Frida is utilizing her new understanding of the importance of networking, and is employing those skills as a Project Manager of an international network focusing on freedom of movement. One of the main objectives of her work is to participate in the effective implementation of the rights of foreigners and migrants in Tunisia. Frida works to raise awareness about immigration issues by organizing trainings for lawyers, conducting research, writing articles, and publishing international and national reports. In the past 6 months, she published three articles about the psychological impact of migration in Tunisia, and one on the psychological and social consequences of maritime incidents and missing migrants. In December 2014, Frida trained lawyers from Italy, Algeria, and Tunisia to increase their knowledge and legal insight on migration policies and to build a network to support cases of migrants whose rights had been violated.
Frida considers the personal interaction with and counseling of refugees, migrants, and their families who have experienced traumatizing life events, her greatest achievement and her most fulfilling work. Through every interaction, Frida seeks to empower individuals to persevere and fight for their rights.
Frida returned to school and in January 2015 earned a post-graduate research degree in clinical psychology. She plans to begin a Ph.D. program in early 2016.
Hajer is determined to help make Tunisia competitive in the world marketplace, and believes that the best way to do that is by committing to the rule of law. Hajer specializes in business law, particularly in helping foreign investors join the Tunisian business sector. She began her professional career working in private equity and three years later made the transition to practicing law. She dreamed of running a famous law firm with accomplished and experienced lawyers. She thought it was just that, though, a dream.
Through the various sessions at Southern Methodist University, she realized that her goal of opening her own law firm was realistic and achievable. Upon returning to Tunisia in April 2014, Hajer rented and furnished her first office. Her firm has quickly become an example of modern legal representation and leadership.
In an effort to build a clientele, she began offering free trainings, targeting young entrepreneurs, companies, and associations. She joined different groups and associations such as the American Chamber of Commerce, Rotary International, and a political party. This allowed her to expand her network, especially with other women.
Hajer is the founding member and Vice President of the Tunisian American Young Professionals and recently received their Member Recognition Award. She believes that the best way to improve her country is by using her skills as a lawyer and leader.
Imane is a petroleum engineer and has worked in the oil and gas industry in Tunisia for several years. Though a male-dominated industry, Imane has excelled and become interested in the business side of her company. She is committed to improving marginalized cities in Tunisia by bringing new businesses to the region and connecting major companies with the small city leaders. Imane has a large, multi-national network that affords her the opportunity to make connections that will have a positive impact on the future of businesses in Tunisia. She is dedicated to the future of Tunisia and wants to develop a strong business community that will improve the prosperity of all Tunisian citizens.
In 2014, Imane joined Al Yakine Association, an organization that focuses on business development, networking opportunities for local employees, and events that highlight the economic potential of Tunisia’s rural regions.
Imane is planning to pursue an MBA, which she believes will better equip her to pursue new business development opportunities for Tunisia.
“Being part of the Fellowship helped me realize that I might not change the world but I can certainly make a difference in the life of a few people so they can make a difference in the life of a few others.”
As a journalist, Miriam combines her passions to advance gender equality and to use the media to document the hardships of Tunisian women.
Before joining the Women’s Initiative Fellowship, Miriam was working on gender issues alone without the support of any organization. During the Fellowship she learned the importance of networks, both professionally and personally. Upon her return to Tunisia in April 2014, she set out to establish a robust network and quickly became connected with numerous civil society organizations.
With the help of her mentor, Holly Gordon, who is the President of Girl Rising, Miriam began spotlighting gender equality and the importance of educating girls through screenings of Girl Rising in Tunisia and Egypt. As a Girl Rising ambassador, Miriam gave presentations about the importance of educating women to eradicate poverty.
Miriam launched her own initiative, Free’lanser, a project that combines photography and storytelling as a way to expose social causes in Tunisia. She created an archive that documents the lives of women and girls living in rural areas of Tunisia. Through her work she met over 100 women, traveled to six different cities, and captured over 20 portraits. Miriam published these stories on social media.
Miriam notes that before the Fellowship she wrote about gender equality in social media, worked to bring it to the spotlight through reporting, but always thought, “You’re too small to make a difference.” She credits the Fellowship with building her self-confidence to realize that she can in fact make a difference.
“I realized that we needed to secure our country before meaningful dialogue on women’s legal rights could take place.”
As the Chief Legal Officer at SOTUPA-Sancella Group, a leading industrial group, Nadia manages all legal matters of the group, from advising high-level executives regarding formation of policies and planning strategies about the group’s future, to ensuring a suitable work environment for all workers in terms of security, rights, and health.
Nadia’s overarching goal for her year in the Fellowship was to reform Tunisia’s Code of Personal Status. The Code of Personal Status is a set of progressive Tunisian laws with an aim toward gender equality. However, when Nadia returned to Tunisia she did not receive the anticipated commitment from her key NGO partner. As a result, Nadia shifted her focus to the upcoming legislative elections.
After Tunisia’s first election in 2011, Nadia felt that many Tunisians lost faith in the electoral process, feeling that voting was not meaningful. As a result, she sensed a lack of commitment to participate in the 2014 legislative elections among her countrymen. Nadia noted that this sentiment seemed particularly pervasive among youth from economically disadvantaged areas of the country and families who were less educated. She was troubled by the seeming apathy of those who suffered and had the most significant need for new government leadership committed to improving their circumstances.
Nadia discussed her observations with Sarah, a fellow lawyer and Women’s Initiative Fellow, whom she had met through the 2014 Fellowship program. Sarah leads an NGO, “JID,” focused on encouraging youth participation in the elections by raising their awareness on key issues. Nadia decided to join JID’s efforts and make this work a central focus of her personal action plan.
In her work with JID’s “Ikhtiyar-Choice” initiative, Nadia employed her legal skills to lead outreach programs in schools for youth in their final year of high school, explaining the distinctions between the upcoming legislative and presidential elections, the legislative process, and the importance of voting. Nadia also used her strong understanding of Islam and the Koran to lead discussions on key issues in the campaign and to try to raise awareness of misrepresentations about the principles of both being made by some political parties to support their positions.
When Neila arrived in Dallas, she had a modest project in mind, one that she claims did not hold any challenge. During her time at Southern Methodist University and through the visits to NGOs and Fortune 500 companies in the U.S., she began to envision a more robust plan, feeling that her initial project lacked a long-term vision or sustainable impact. By establishing an action plan, Neila saw the strengths and weaknesses of her project, better evaluating its growth possibilities and to what extent she could push her own capacities and ambition. She returned home confident and determined to make her project adaptable to the Tunisian context. From this plan, Mosaic Tunisia was born.
Mosaic Tunisia is an independent, civil society association that promotes financial autonomy of the Tunisian civil society as essential for continued success. The organization’s mission is to ensure that the associations with which they partner have the necessary financial means to fully participate in the progression of Tunisia’s democratic process. Neila strongly believes that fundraising is the most difficult and crucial part of any association’s work to achieve their goals, to grow and become more efficient.
Mosaic Tunisia seeks to connect its partnering associations to each other. These associations represent the eight prominent domains in each region of the Tunisia, allowing them to impact the entire country. By connecting the associations to one another, they possess a dynamic network of communication and assistance between associations that focus on education, health, handicraft, startups, citizenship, culture, sports, and social assistance.
Mosaic Tunisia was launched in 2014 with eleven founding members, four of whom are Women’s Initiative Fellows. The founders come from different backgrounds and are enthusiastic about the project. Mosaic Tunisia has already identified two projects for fundraising in 2015 and is expanding their support to worthy civil society projects in Tunisia.
After returning to Tunisia following the U.S. portion of the Fellowship, Nesrine graduated with honors with a degree in Computer Science and Software Engineering. She joined Microsoft as a MACH Sales Engineer. The MACH group is considered by Microsoft to be the future leaders of the company. Nesrine has received extensive professional development training as part of the MACH onboarding program.
In addition to her new role at Microsoft, Nesrine is working to develop a company in Tunisia that she hopes will provide jobs for Tunisian citizens. Recognizing the strength of the Tunisian tourism industry, Nesrine is utilizing her talents in software engineering to develop a new website that will showcase her beautiful country. Similar to Airbnb in the United States, website users will have the opportunity to select housing for a short-term stay in Tunisia, ask local Tunisians questions, arrange tours and transportation, and interact with other tourists. Nesrine has finalized her business plan and is currently seeking funding from a foundation based in France. She is in the process of hiring staff members for her organization to help with the rapidly growing venture.
Five years ago, Sabrine stepped in to manage and maintain the family business when her mother became ill. Sabrine has continued to successfully manage the family advertising and editing agency in Tunisia.
Sabrine always knew that she wanted to start her own business. She came to the United States in March 2014 and left with an action plan to start a call center. After meeting with a call center owner, she realized that she wanted to move in a different direction. She moved on to her next plan which eventually transitioned to her goal of starting a printing house in Tunisia. Her mentor noted that through the changes and failures, Sabrine gained wonderful leadership skills: “Set a plan; pursue the plan by using your network and your hard work; don’t be afraid to alter the plan - even three times.” Sabrine is excited to start her printing house in Tunis soon. She is currently working to mentor other women in her country by empowering and encouraging them to start their own businesses.
Sabrine is active in civil society, working to increase women's engagement in the parliamentary and presidential elections in Tunisia. She led a campaign that encouraged women to vote and to actively participate in the elections. As president of a polling station, Sabrine engaged over 35 women to serve as election observers and members of different polling stations throughout Tunis.
“I was part of Tunisia development process, I did it, we did it, we are leading the country, we will make a future generation of leaders.”
Sarah joined the Women’s Initiative Fellowship as a recent law school graduate and had an interest in both law and activism. Following her return to Tunisia in April 2014, Sarah joined a prominent Tunisian law firm where she oversees the pro bono cases. Sarah has consulted on cases dealing with violence against women, sexual harassment, and domestic violence. She joined a program called Trust Women, which focuses on the importance of developing laws to ensure women’s rights. The organization provides free legal services to women all over the world.
Sarah recently represented her law firm at the International Network of Law Firms. Though the youngest lawyer at the event, Sarah utilized the opportunity to meet with senior lawyers to enlarge her network and enrich her knowledge of laws in the Arab World.
In addition to her extensive work in the legal field, Sarah is a leader in civil society and political education in Tunisia. As president of a civil society organization, JID, Sarah has developed several projects to increase young voter education and government transparency. Sarah hopes to one day develop an NGO that focuses on utilizing the legal system to better guarantee the rights of all Tunisian citizens.
- A successful lawyer, Sara Elmatbouly reports that she has used all the skills acquired from the Fellowship program throughout the last year in both her personal and professional life to achieve her success. Sara is passionate about working with the disabled community, particularly the blind, in Egypt.
- Sandy Halim strongly believes in the power of beauty and the future of Egypt, two passions she combines through her handicraft business, Life Creations. Upon returning to Egypt from the U.S. portion of the Women’s Initiative Fellowship in April, Sandy’s business saw an increase in sales allowing her to hire more craftsmen, including two women on a part-time basis.
Dina is an Egyptian entrepreneur with a passion for internet startups, new technologies, digital businesses, and an advocate for women entrepreneurship in Middle East. She is the Founder and Chief Technology Officer of ITMAX Intelligent Solutions & Networks, the only company in Egypt specializing in Radio Frequency Identification and augmented reality e-commerce web applications.
- Having found her passion, Miral Dera is in the process of establishing an entity to develop Awakeners – videos designed to encourage positive behavior change. This will be the first such entity of its kind in Egypt.
- Vivian Labib Noeur is an international award-winning artist and social entrepreneur who believes in using arts and social initiatives to serve the community. She is the founder of Charisma Arts, a social enterprise that helps marginalized communities produce an income through manufacturing and selling genuine Egyptian handmade items.
- With a unique perspective and an interest in both international affairs and media, Dina Hussein focuses her career on helping people across the globe better understand life in the Middle East and North Africa region.
- When Reem Molokhia went to study in South Korea three years ago, she was impressed by the dynamic Korean youth. They inspired her to help Egyptian youth not only to learn new languages but practical study and learning skills that can help supplement and enhance their education.
- Currently working in the HR department in a multinational firm in Egypt, Caroline Kaldas’ position and experience has opened her eyes to the need for companies to further develop their employees and internal processes.
- Like many social entrepreneurs, Nemat Madi adapted her vision and began actively donating her time and energy to an organization with a similar mission, the Egyptian Cure Bank. The Cure Bank provides quality health care, free of charge, to impoverished citizens.
- Upon returning to Alexandria in April following the Fellows’ month-long journey in the United States, Hadeer Maher realized she needed to learn more about how development work can succeed in a developing country. Hadeer moved to India for six months where she worked for an organization called Magic Bus. This sports-based program educates children on key issues such as gender equality, physical skills and personal development.
- Roula El Boraei, a practicing obstetrician/gynecologist, currently works for an international non- profit in Egypt. Through her work, Roula provides medical care for underserved women in rural and urban communities.
- Jacqueline Mourad is the Deputy Executive Director at Professional Development Foundation, an NGO that contributes to Egypt’s economic growth and aims to increase Egypt’s global competitiveness through enhancing workforce performance.
- Jeanne Guirrguis is Head of the Gender Department at Media Arts for Development (MADEV) in Egypt, an organization that uses media production and training as a way to create positive social change and promote rights-based development.
- Esraa is the talented Owner and Senior Fashion Designer of Ostora Manufacturing Company, where she promotes the artistic talents of women who reside in the slums of Cairo.
- An avid runner and sports enthusiast, Mariz Doss is improving her community through sports. Mariz joined Cairo Runners in the spring of 2013 with the shared vision of creating a safe street- running environment for men, women and children – a new concept for Egypt.
- After returning to Egypt in April, Rowida Eldeep decided to leave her job at the Egyptian Democratic Academy and join the Cairo Institute for Human Rights. Though her job changed, her focus has not. Rowida’s passion is still to increase the number of women candidates in parliament.
- After returning to Egypt in April from the US portion of the Fellowship, Shaima Tantaway decided to create her own “Women’s Initiative Fellowship Program”. She saw firsthand the value of women mentoring women in the same field and wanted to offer the same experience to women in her home network.
The George W. Bush Institute’s inaugural class of Women’s Initiative Fellows is celebrating the culmination of their year-long experience. Through training they received during the U.S. portion of the program and the five in-country sessions that followed in Cairo, they are making significant contributions to the development and advancement of Egypt. The leadership skills they acquired, the communication with their mentors and a strong commitment to change are helping these Fellows leave a significant mark on the future of their country.
Following are highlights of the Fellows’ remarkable work and success to date:
Amany serves as Women and Family Programs Manager for the largest nonprofit organization in Egypt, Misr El Kheir. Her many interests include volunteering, mentoring, regional development, cross-cultural training and writing.
Upon her return to Egypt after the U.S. portion of the Fellowship, Amany provided support to and collaborated with other 2012 Fellows. She assisted Azza Koura in preparation of her conference and provided marketing consultation to Heba Wahsh for her dental business. Amany is also collaborating with Ireny Roman in writing a book about the Egyptian Revolution, highlighting the significant contributions made by Egyptian women. In December 2012, she completed the first draft of “Female Faces of the Egyptian Revolution.” Amany also mentors two young women through the Association for Women's Total Advancement & Development (AWTAD).
Amany earned her Bachelor’s degree in Economics with a minor in Political Science and received an M.B.A. from the Maastricht School of Management.
Amany’s Highlights: Amany’s networking and social media skills have been put to good use. She successfully launched an opinion board using Google Moderator, enabling members of her local community to express their thoughts to the Egyptian Parliament.
In November 2012, she organized the Global Mentoring Walk, which received wide media attention including three television stations and five leading newspapers. Amany also coordinated the day’s activities including panel discussions, networking opportunities and a fair. Event participation was promoted through Facebook and other social media sites. The Bush Institute Women’s Initiative sponsored a booth at the Global Mentoring Walk to support her efforts.
Amany launched a cultural sensitivity training program by conducting an orientation session for Americans new to the U.S. Embassy in Egypt. In the session, she discussed Egyptian women and Islam, and she continues to research cultural misconceptions to develop a course outline and curriculum.
In her role as Women and Family Programs Manager, Amany designed a pilot project called Masreya (translated: Egyptian Female), which will create areas where women can receive training, mentorship and legal counsel, as well as assistance with micro-financing and job recruitment. She successfully lobbied the National Center of Egyptian Women to support her project, which will launch with a corresponding online portal in early April 2013.
Amany is also developing a YouTube Channel called “Contemporary Egyptian Women,” scheduled to launch in March 2013.
In recognition of her leadership and achievements, Amany was selected as a speaker at TEDx Women in Alexandria, Egypt, in December 2012.
Azza has worked in the financial sector for more than 17 years. She is the Chapter President of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) for Egypt. In April 2010, Azza established the first AFP chapter in the Middle East and North Africa region. She is currently assisting other Arabic countries in the creation of AFP chapters modeled after the flagship association in Egypt.
Azza lectures on funding of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to economics and political science students, and organized a large conference, “Egypt and Future Paths: Reviving Trust Funds in a Modern Context,” focusing on economic solutions to Egypt’s challenges. Tapping into her new network, Azza called upon the skills and talents of other Women’s Initiative Fellows to help with the conference planning: Nora Haleem’s printing house produced all the printed materials; May Hassan designed the website banners; Amany Eid assisted by managing the guest speaker; and Enas Lotfy documented the conference through her photography.
Azza used her knowledge of the banking profession to help the Association of Friends of the National Cancer Institute develop fundraising plans for a hospital that treats children with cancer. She facilitated raising millions of dollars to support the National Cancer Institute, and obtained financial and technical support to establish an art therapy cancer center at Children’s Cancer Hospital 57357 in Cairo. Additionally, Azza secured three scholarships for Egyptian doctors to study at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.
Azza partnered with the AL-ROWAD Initiative, a nonprofit organization formed with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This partnership expands the provision of business advisory services and supports job creation in Egypt.
Azza’s Highlights: Azza has successfully expanded her professional network. Through an increased presence on Internet platforms, she has developed new job opportunities and professional referrals that produced a list of potential clients in the areas of translation, fundraising consulting and curriculum development. Despite a depressed economy in Egypt, growth in her fundraising consultancy has led to the financial sustainability of her business.
Azza worked with Fellow Amany Eid and the two developed a strategic marketing plan that includes public relations and media campaigns for fundraising efforts. As a fundraising consultant for Heliopolis University and the Arab Medical Union, Azza has obtained tentative funding of $1,000,000 EGP from an Egyptian bank and $500,000 EGP from an insurance company.
Enas is a talented photographer who has worked with U.N. Women to create a photo archive, which records the lives of women in their environment and at work. She is showcasing Egyptian women from various walks of life to reveal their plight.
In addition, Enas participates in the Dig Deeper Project that encourages Egyptians to learn more about their rich culture and visit historical sites within Egypt. She also participated in a workshop with Andalusia Center for Human Rights to develop simplified educational materials about human rights for children and illiterate women.
Since her initial training in the U.S. as part of the Fellowship, Enas has collaborated with many of the Women’s Initiative Fellows, lending her talents in photography. She documented Azza Koura’s conference; collaborated with Nora Haleem to document the Second Annual Ayman Ramzy Design Award for Applied Arts and Fine Arts students; documented Heba Wahsh’s work with orphans; and covered the Egypt 2020 conference with Amany Eid.
Enas received her Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts with an emphasis in Oil Painting.
Enas’s Highlights: Passionate about addressing the issue of sexual harassment, Enas participated in Egypt’s first photo exhibition highlighting the issue. The exhibit raised awareness and promoted dialogue about a widespread problem that has not been sufficiently addressed in Egypt. The media extensively covered the exhibition, and Enas hopes the event will begin a discussion centered on this serious issue.
Through her photos, Enas also documented “I Wish,” a campaign organized by a group of young men and women who hope to raise awareness about sexual harassment and its damaging effects on women.
In November 2012, Enas contributed pieces to the Urban Art and Media Organisation’s (UAMO) Festival for Contemporary Art. Based in Munich, UAMO supports national and international artists across various disciplines. German, French and Egyptian photographers attended a workshop in Egypt and then collaborated on the creation of a large exhibition titled “Cairo – Open City.” The exhibition will travel to France and London prior to opening in Cairo.
Through her work with U.N. Women, Enas displayed two photo essays chronicling women’s stories at an exhibition in Egypt, which will be transferred to the United Nations headquarters. She also participated in an exhibition with the Egyptian Ministry of Culture.
Enas recently submitted her research plan for a Master’s program that she will begin this year.
Heba is a dentist in the Cairo region and partner in a successful dental practice. She donates her time to work with Operation Smile to provide treatment for children with dental and facial abnormalities. In addition to caring for the people in her community, Heba has participated in mission trips, including a month-long dental mission to Cameroon where she provided services to children.
Heba has also been a counselor at the Wadi Sports Camp, where sports are used to encourage the healthy psychological development of teenagers.
Heba received a degree in Comprehensive Pediatric Dentistry and General Anesthesia. She is currently enrolled in a Master’s program for Public Health.
Heba’s Highlights: Upon her return to Egypt after the U.S. portion of the Fellowship, Heba volunteered with a number of nonprofit organizations involved in child and youth development. Although she is a successful dentist, Heba’s true passion is supporting children in need. She tutors children; provides monthly character development and relationship building sessions; and offers dental treatment. Heba works with two local youth organizations to develop a curriculum that addresses the psychological needs of at-risk youth. She hopes to partner with local schools to provide avenues for students to pursue personal growth and academic training.
Heba finalized the legal procedures to start Xtra Mile, an NGO that works to address child and youth development. She has conducted two events for children ages 8-12 that included activities and discussions concentrating on the principles of organization and setting priorities. Heba is pursuing sponsorship opportunities that will allow her to offer activities and training to low-income students, especially those in Upper Egypt.
She is currently preparing to convene her annual youth leadership program that will engage 30 participants this summer.
Ireny is the Monitoring and Evaluation Manager for the Agricultural Cooperative Development International and Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance (ACDI/VOCA), a private nonprofit organization that promotes economic growth through rural agricultural development in low-income countries and emerging democracies. She has worked for ACDI/VOCA, which is funded by USAID, for four years and is a member of the ACDI/VOCA gender community task force.
After participating in a gender assessment study, Ireny recognized the importance and necessity of gender activities and believes these activities to be crucial to the success of any developmental program. Through her work at ACDI/VOCA, Ireny started a new initiative to ensure the full integration of female farmers in Egyptian communities. Her initiative offers technical assistance and training programs that aim to educate farmers and farmers’ associations by sharing best practices in agriculture and farming. She organized and coordinated training opportunities for women in the farming community on a variety of topics including first aid, skills training for greenhouse laborers and the responsible use of pesticides and proper disposal of pesticide containers.
Ireny has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Economics.
Ireny’s Highlights: Ireny wrote an article about her women’s training initiative that was published in the project’s bi-monthly newsletter. Her concern for the environment motivated Ireny to start another new initiative through her office in Cairo. As recycling is not common in Egypt, the initiative focuses on raising awareness about the value of recycling and encouraging employees in her office to recycle. She is communicating with ACDI/VOCA field offices in the different Egyptian governorates to ensure that they follow the same recycling system as the organization’s main office in Cairo.
Ireny remains connected to the Women’s Initiative Fellows, as well as to her mentor. She is currently collaborating with Amany Eid on her book about the role of Egyptian women in the Revolution by conducting a survey and arranging interviews with Egyptian women who played an active role in the Revolution. Ireny credits her Women’s Initiative Fellowship network in assisting her in her goal to pursue an M.B.A.
Laila designed the model for an International Criminal Court Initiative that aims to enhance law students’ knowledge and provide them with opportunities to practice their legal skills. She also co-founded Egypt Foundation for Youth and Development, a foundation that concentrates on empowering youth through education, capacity building and sustainable development.
Laila has a Bachelor’s degree in Law from the Law College at Alexandria University.
Laila’s Highlights: Laila has enrolled in International Negotiations Diploma courses at Cairo University and has participated in a United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) workshop. She served as a speaker in the fourth forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations conference with the intent of familiarizing herself with international organizations working on dialogue, peace and conflict prevention. She continues to practice her networking skills at these events in order to pursue her goal.
With the support and assistance of her Women’s Initiative Fellowship mentor, Laila researched and applied to Master’s programs in Global Political Studies for the fall of this year.
Laila is partnering with a Swedish organization to implement a youth project that uses sports as a tool to build values and promote dialogue between youth.
She is also working on a new project that will engage the 2012 Fellows in an effort to share the skills they acquired with women across Egypt. Laila envisions connecting with women and organizations throughout Egypt that share the same goals and vision for their country. She hopes to eventually expand her vision to other countries in the region. The Women’s Initiative sponsored a training session in Cairo, which was conducted by the Fellows for women in their personal networks. Fellows shared the practical skills and knowledge they obtained as part of the Fellowship with other women, thus creating a multiplier effect. This session is the model for Laila’s new project.
May’s interests span a diverse spectrum from law to design. She received a post-graduate diploma in Intellectual Property Law and supervised the first—and highly successful—National Oral Moot Court competition in Egypt between four leading universities in Spring 2012. The Ministry of Justice has offered to support the competition this year. May is working toward the launch of the first Environmental Legal Clinic in Cairo as she strives to improve the legal education model in Egyptian universities by concentrating on skill-oriented instruction.
Pursuing her interest in intellectual property law, May attended the first Training of Trainers program in Egypt on “Pedagogical Aspects of Intellectual Property Teaching.” This training was organized by the World Intellectual Property Organization and the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology, a United Nations agency dedicated to the use of intellectual property (patents, copyright, trademarks, designs, etc.) as a means of stimulating innovation and creativity. This training program provided May with the opportunity to use skills she learned as a Women’s Initiative Fellow to meet new people and expand her network. At the conclusion of the program in 2013, May will become certified as an International Intellectual Property Trainer. She plans to launch an Egyptian Intellectual Property Academy before 2014.
May’s Highlights: May’s interest in graphic design motivated her to launch her own design studio called May Madly. The recently completed website, www.maymadly.com, features May’s design portfolio. She continues to provide freelance designs, collaborating with Fellow Azza Koura on the website banners used for Azza’s conference in March 2012. She also created a logo design for Reham Kamal’s jewelry business.
May and her husband recently welcomed twins, a boy and a girl, into the world in January 2013. Her husband is now pursuing his goal of becoming a successful urban developer and is earning his Master’s degree in urban development from one of the world’s top universities. He plans to use his degree to develop poor communities, enhance their living standards and ensure the presence of social justice all over the world. May’s husband describes her as “a precious woman,” and a valuable wife, mother, teacher and designer.
Mona is the President of a publishing house in Egypt and serves as Managing Director of Partners for Health at Astra Zeneca Pharmaceutical Company.
Mona helps Egyptian families by volunteering as a marriage counselor and through her publishing house. Books on relationships, parenting, personal skills and religious topics in Arabic and English help to raise awareness among the Egyptian population regarding their personal, professional and spiritual development.
Mona earned her Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and received a professional certificate in interpretation and counseling. She is an alumna of the inaugural class of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Entrepreneurship and Leadership Program.
Mona’s Highlights: Mona successfully built a team of 12 employees to assist with her publishing company’s translation of the Bible. One team is translating the Bible into modern standard Arabic from the original language of Greek, while the second team is translating a Coptic Study Bible. No Coptic Study Bible yet exists, and Mona is determined to provide a quality product through her company.
She attributes her company’s success to the networking skills she acquired through the Women’s Initiative Fellowship. Using new leadership methods, Mona was able to effectively share her idea and recruit her team from some of the most prominent monasteries and churches in Egypt. She has built a core translation team of two monks, one priest, two translators and a footnote team of seven for the Study Bible materials.
In January 2013, her publishing house released eight new books and hired four additional employees. Mona will attend the Cairo International Book Fair, where she will present her entire inventory of books. Her company now assists other local publishers who do not yet have sufficient distribution channels.
In November 2012, Mona delivered a presentation about her work to the Women’s Executive Leadership Program of the American University in Cairo (AUC). More than 50 members of the Women’s Executive Leadership Program attended the event.
To increase her management skills as her business grows, Mona has enrolled in an Advanced Management Program at AUC. She is beginning a Greek language course as well.
A well-known television reporter in Egypt, Namees is the youngest Women’s Initiative Fellow. During the Revolution, Namees was asked to spread inaccurate stories, but she refused and resigned from her position.
Namees went on to found a new media production company called Bokra that includes television, radio and social media outlets. Through Bokra, she promotes human rights and democratic principles by training individuals in new media. Namees appeared on CNN to discuss the outcome of the Egyptian presidential election and to raise the issue of the fate of women in Egypt as a result of the election.
Namees has worked on a number of media campaigns, including the “Change Your Life Campaign,” which aims to encourage women to be independent, and the “Be Free Campaign,” which addresses young Muslim women extremists. She is currently working on a civic journalism campaign to cover youth participation in elections in their respective regions. The campaign will be broadcast on her NGO’s radio station and website.
Namees earned her Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication with a focus in Television and Radio.
Namees’s Highlights: Namees continues her work promoting human rights and democratic principles through Bokra, which provided coverage of the referendum on the Egyptian constitution through its initiative “SADA” for civic journalism. Via web-based radio and TV, journalists observed the election, reporting on voting violations at various polling sites. The coverage included commentary from political activists, women activists and observers from various NGOs and political parties. Four of their television reports were disseminated via YouTube.
Namees’ company recently established a legal unit to support journalists who face detention and arrest. They have participated in cases related to the violation of freedom of expression.
Namees completed a proposal for a TV show about and for Egyptian women. The goal of the show is to spotlight issues that are important to women, including women’s rights, as well as political, economic and education issues. Namees is currently working to obtain funding for the project, and she has connected with several international television stations to establish potential partnerships.
Nora’s life dramatically changed when her husband suddenly passed away. After many years in administrative work, she changed career paths to save her late husband’s printing business and has successfully managed it for four years. Her leadership has not only sustained her family but has saved the jobs of the company’s 20 employees. Though Nora has faced numerous challenges in running a business in a primarily male-dominated industry, she has emerged as a strong and competent leader. She does not surrender to life’s challenges but rather faces them with resilience and turns them into successes.
Nora’s business recently launched a translation division and began translating its first book, “Remember the Roses.” She dreams of writing and publishing her own book but plans to start by writing a blog and preparing translated material for training courses.
Nora combines her personal and business skills through her work in Life Ministry. She is a group facilitator of Basic Life and Emotional Skills School (BLESS), where she offers counseling sessions for women and serves as an example to the women in her church who face difficult financial situations. Nora is developing an NGO that will make services offered through her current ministry available to a larger number of Egyptians. These services focus on self-awareness, emotional and life skills, sexual education and counseling services.
Building on the knowledge she received as a Women’s Initiative Fellow, Nora conducts training sessions teaching personal and business skills. She has collaborated with other Fellows including Enas Lotfy on a photography project and Azza Koura on print materials for a conference.
Nora received her Bachelor’s degree in English and is pursuing a Masters of Psychology, which she hopes will equip and empower her to become a more effective leader within her family, her business and in her counseling and mentorship relationships.
Nora’s Highlights: Nora attests that the training she received through the Women’s Initiative Fellowship has empowered her and made her a more decisive businesswoman. She is committed to creating a more robust company by facilitating better work relationships; making strategic adjustments within the context of the post-revolution recession; and implementing advertising and marketing campaigns through Facebook and Google.
As a volunteer for the Association for Women's Total Advancement & Development (AWTAD), a mentorship program for young women seeking to enter the workforce, Nora hopes that her experience in training and mentoring young people will enable them to become self-aware, self-motivated and purposeful in their life and work.
Nora uses the skills she obtained during the Women’s Initiative Fellowship to cascade important lessons to other women in her sphere of influence and continues to develop materials on the subject of women’s empowerment. Her professional and personal pursuits have drawn media attention to her multi-dimensional life as a single parent, company owner and volunteer mentor.
Until recently, Reham worked for We Owe It to Egypt, a foundation that supports centers of excellence in the fields of education and health. In that role, Reham managed multiple projects, including the launch of a monthly newsletter and the development of a donation catalogue on the Foundation’s website. She also developed a partnership with Fawry, a payment service, to provide donation channels for the Foundation.
A desire to contribute to her community on a personal level led Reham to volunteer with “Because We Do Not Walk This Earth Alone,” an initiative that organizes weekly visits to centers for disabled children, orphanages, cancer institutes and elderly homes.
As a result of her Women’s Initiative Fellowship experience, Reham recognized the need to pursue her dream of working with children and successfully made a career change.
Reham received her Bachelor’s degree in Management, International Business and Marketing.
Reham’s Highlights: Reham now works as a teacher at a nursery school in Cairo. To build skills for her new career, she is participating in an intensive nursery teacher training course, which she will complete in May 2013. In addition to this training, Reham is attending classes on autism to learn how teachers and parents can effectively support children with special needs. Knowing that experts in the field of special education are rare in Egypt and that the demand for special care is growing, Reham is considering pursing a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education with a specialty in Special and Inclusive Education.
Reham uses her artistic talents to design bracelets and accessories and recently launched a new online business called La Beautique to showcase her products. The desire to improve her jewelry-making skills has led Reham to enroll in a jewelry and beading class. Reham also collaborated with Women’s Initiative Fellow May Hassan on the design for her business logo.
Samar has worked in the human rights field since 2005 and has been active in civil society projects dedicated to human rights education, election monitoring and minority rights. She is currently the Executive Director of the Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies.
Samar was an activist during the Egyptian Revolution and an election monitor during the 2012 Presidential vote, and she continues to work to promote freedom and democracy. Samar led the Presidential Elections Program, which was implemented in all governorates. Her work in election observation led to her appearance on Al Jazeera and BBC Arabic.
She seeks to support reform movements and non-violent revolutions in the Arab world and beyond. Samar completed training at the Global Progressive Forum, which works directly with activists in the Middle East, and is now a policy advisor for Egypt and other Arab Spring countries.
Samar is pursuing a Master’s degree in Political Science.
Samar’s Highlights: Samar launched an open library platform for knowledge sharing within the Andalus Institute. She initiated a program on women’s rights, media monitoring and gender balance to report on gender bias. Through her organization, Samar has planned an anti-domestic violence campaign to be disseminated over internet radio in Cairo and Alexandria by the end of February 2013. The findings of the campaign are to be published on March 8 in honor of International Women’s Day. She has also completed a proposal on a women’s empowerment initiative and is currently seeking funding for this project.
Using the networking skills she learned through the Women’s Initiative Fellowship, Samar created a volunteer-based fundraising team, which contributes to the Andalus Institute’s financial stability, an important need in the midst of a national financial crisis.
Samar created a mentorship program within her organization that links young employees with human rights experts and practitioners. This program will soon be expanded to serve recent college graduates who are interested in non-violent movements and human rights.
Samar worked with the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament in their support of activists in the Middle East and North Africa. She was responsible for organizing conferences in Jordan and Cairo for which she published background papers on Egyptian and Jordanian political activists and on corruption and transparency in the Arab Spring. She also contributed to the creation of several European Parliament resolutions in Egypt and other Arab countries.
Samar’s political aspirations continue to grow. Several political parties have approached her to run on their ballots, and she is considering the best opportunity to enter the Parliamentary elections.
Sara is the Founder and CEO of Sweety Heaven, an online company that aims to improve communication between parents and children. During her visit to the United States as part of the Women’s Initiative Fellowship, Sara realized it was time to leave her job in human resources and devote herself fully to achieving her dream of building her own company. The company, headquartered in Alexandria, Egypt, has attracted a number of investors, including a one-year financial deal, enabling Sara to recruit and hire two full-time employees. She has also hired a developer, project manager and accountant. Sara finds great personal gratification in the fact that she is able to create jobs and views this as her contribution to solving the high unemployment rate in Egypt.
Sara was awarded first place in the “Start-Up Weekend Alexandria” competition. She was required to pitch a product idea to more than 300 people, including potential investors; develop and manage a team to create a working prototype; and present it to the audience within two days. Additionally, Sara was named Entrepreneur of the Week by an entrepreneurial website and was featured on Wamda TV and in local newspapers.
Sara holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Tourism and Hotels.
Sara’s Highlights: Sara has directed her energy toward building her web-based company, which continues to grow.
She has successfully developed a large network among kindergarten providers for the purpose of promoting her business through presentations to kindergartens and private child care providers. She recently hosted an event to distribute gifts to children, using the exposure to build the foundation for a future educational event concentrating on effective parenting. Using networking and marketing skills learned through the Women’s Initiative Fellowship, Sara parlayed a minimum investment in advertising into a few thousand registered users of Sweety Heaven.
Sara’s incredible success over the last year has solidified her as flourishing entrepreneur and rising star in Egypt.