2012 Women’s Initiative Fellowship Success Stories
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.