We all know how tough it is being a woman in Egypt. People’s expectations about our body, behavior, language, education, work, and even friends make it impossible not to be judged and criticized. It is especially hard for a woman to make it in Egypt with the constraints that our society puts on a woman’s freedom. Everything is controlled starting with where she goes, who she meets and what she wears to whether she’s allowed to travel on her own, work late or even make her own career choices and not follow her parent’s expectations. But even though it’s hard, women all over the globe are breaking free and proving themselves worthy of the same positions and salaries that men have.
We’ve dedicated this article to show off many examples of powerful Egyptian women who made it despite all the limitations and obstacles. We are all very proud to witness such great examples of how willpower and dedication can achieve anything! To all the females out there, Happy Women’s day!
Amany Helmy Khalil, proud mother of 2 children, finished The Ironman Triathlon held in Barcelona, Spain, and came in 21st in the 50-54 age category. She made a career shift to fitness from economics and banking after she got married and had her first child and showed up in the Egyptian athletic world at a relatively late age, while also caring for her two children and her husband.
- Amany Khalil became the first Egyptian woman above 50 to compete in and finish the triathlon race, which consists of a 3.86-kilometer swim, a 180.25-kilometer bike ride and a 42.20-kilometer marathon run.
Nancy Ali Hassan
As the Founder and Managing Director of Hedeya Children Stores, Nancy had a tough journey starting out as an entrepreneur in the Egyptian market, but she ran the operation on her own for a while. Currently, Hedeya has many branches in Cairo and Alexandria and has become a thriving online business.
- Single-handedly founded a store that sells everything from baby clothes and toys to accessories and strollers.
- Created more than 8 successful branches in Egypt
- Started one of the few online stores that were open in Egypt
Azza Fahmy is one of the best examples of women who broke the norms and set out after their dreams. After she completed her bachelor’s degree in interior design, she decided to learn the trade from those who know it best – the skilled masters and craftsmen in Khan El-Khalili! This was completely against society’s rules at that time. She was the first person to create jewelry and key chains with engraved verses of poetry and Arabic writings. Her designs proved to be uniquely original and show the Egyptian heritage.
- Azza Fahmy founded one of Egypt’s most renowned brands, which is now recognized internationally.
- She paved the way for so many female designers currently working in Egypt.
Deena Mohamed is an Egyptian illustrator and designer. She first started drawing comics at the age of 18, then created a webcomic called Qahera about a female Egyptian Muslim superhero who fights against social issues like Islamophobia and misogyny.
- The webcomic Qahera has been featured by a lot of news outlets, such as the BBC and Foreign Policy, and is on the cover of two books by the Harvard Press. It also won the award for Best Digital Comic Series in the first edition of the Cairo Comix Festival (2015).
- Deena’s graphic novel Shubeik Lubeik, an urban fantasy about wishes, was is published in Arabic in Egypt by Dar El Mahrousa and was awarded Best Graphic Novel and the Grand Prize of the Cairo Comix Festival (2017). The English translation for Shubeik Lubeik has been acquired by Pantheon Books for North America and Granta for the UK, for publication in spring 2021.
- Deena also does freelance illustrations for local and international clients such as Viacom, UN Women, Nazra for Feminist Studies, Harrassmap and Mada Masr.
Nawal El Saadawi
Nawal El Saadawi is an Egyptian feminist writer, activist, physician, and psychiatrist. She has written many books on the subject of women in Islam and has helped publish a feminist magazine in 1981 called Confrontation. She was then imprisoned by the president of Egypt at that time, Anwar El Sadat. She was released later that year, one month after the President’s assassination, she wrote of her experience in imprisonment: “Danger has been a part of my life ever since I picked up a pen and wrote. Nothing is more perilous than truth in a world that lies.”
- Nawal is founder and president of the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association, Health Education Association, the Egyptian Women Writers’ Association, and co-founder of the Arab Association for Human Rights.
- In 2004, she won the North-South Prize from the Council of Europe. In 2005, she won the Inana International Prize in Belgium, and in 2012, the International Peace Bureau awarded her the 2012 Seán MacBride Peace Prize.
- Nawal el Saadawi has also been 1. An author for the Supreme Council for Arts and Social Sciences 2. A Director General of the Health Education Department, Ministry of Health 3. Secretary-General of the Medical Association 4. Medical doctor at the University Hospital and Ministry of Health. 5. Chief Editor of Health Magazine in Cairo, and Editor of Medical Association Magazine.
Nour El Sherbini
Nour El Sherbini is an Egyptian professional squash player. She is a three times World champion and became the youngest woman to win the Women’s World Championship (2015). She started playing squash when she was 6 years old and was already participating in tournaments before she was 8.
- In 2019, Nour won her 3rd World Championship rising to equal fourth in the all-time list of world championships won.
- Nour currently ranks 2nd best player in the world.
- Nour has won 20 awards worldwide.
Farida Hisham Osman
Farida Osman is the fastest female swimmer in Egypt and Africa, an All-Africa Games gold medalist and Egyptian national champion and record-holder. She started swimming at the age of five.
- At the age of 11, Farida won all the 50m and 100m freestyle and butterfly national titles, earning the “Best Swimmer” trophy.
- At the age of 12, she was selected to represent Egypt at the 11th Pan Arab Games in Cairo, Egypt. She was the youngest athlete on the team and participated in the 50m, 100m freestyle and the 50m and 100m butterfly.
- She broke the Arab record for the 50m butterfly where she became the youngest Egyptian and Arab athlete to ever win the event and break the record.
- She competed at the All Africa Games and finished fifth.
- She participated in various international competitions such as the International Sindlefingen Swimming Competition (ISSC) where she received the 2nd-place trophy for best sprinters in the competition.
- She participated in various competitions such as RESLs, Junior Olympics, Sectionals and Far Westerns, where she was in the top 10 places of her year group.
Yasmeen Khamis & Farah El Masry
26-year old Yasmeen Khamis co-founded the Doodle Factory with Farah El Masry, establishing themselves as two young entrepreneurs. They discovered a way to help sick girls and boys raise the money they need for their medical treatment by taking the children’s drawings and designs then printing them out on handbags and accessories. The sale of these colorful and unique items goes towards charity and helps with the essential treatment and costs of these vulnerable kids and their families.
- The Doodle Factory is a successful business created solely to help those in need, the products are sold online and offered at concept stores too.