On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Community Times takes an inside look at:

Egyptian women have been at the forefront of the struggle for women’s rights since the beginning of the 20th century.  As the struggle for equality continues, we take a look back at some of the lesser-known pioneer women who achieved success in their fields, in spite of the social conditions at the time.  

From entertainment, politics, and sports to medicine and science, each of these inspiring women pursued a passion and a dream at a time when women around the world were fighting to be heard.  More importantly, none of them let the conventional place of women in society dictate how they lived their lives.

compiled by: Eleanora Vio, Yasmine Nazmy & Najla Riad

WOMEN IN THE ARTS

ASSIA DAGHER

Film producer and actress Assia Dagher – better known as Assia – was born in Lebanon in 1908, but moved to Cairo with her sister in 1919 after the French invasion.  Naturalized as an Egyptian citizen in 1933, the pioneer actress and filmmaker quickly established herself in the Egyptian entertainment industry – which played a leading role in the region at the time.

Dagher’s first appearance on the silver screen was in the 1927 Egyptian feature film “Laila”.  Her debut role as an extra in Laila marked the first on-screen appearance of a Lebanese woman.  Although Dagher appeared as a leading actress in 20 films, she is remembered primarily as the region’s first powerhouse female producer.

Throughout her career, Dagher produced over 100 films, including Youssef Chahine’s 1963 historical drama Al-Nasir Salah Eddin (Saladin) and the 1957 Rudd Qalby (Return my Heart).  Although she was considered a foreigner when she began her career, she left a definitive mark on the entertainment industry in Egypt.  Dagher was also the aunt and mentor of producer and actress Mary Queeny, who later co-founded Studio Galal.

[quote]Throughout her career, Dagher produced over 100 films, including Youssef Chahine’s 1963 historical drama Al-Nasir Salah Eddin (Saladin) and the 1957 Rudd Qalby (Return my Heart). Although she was considered a foreigner when she began her career, she left a definitive mark on the entertainment industry in Egypt.  Dagher was also the aunt and mentor of producer and actress Mary Queeny, who later co-founded Studio Galal.[/quote]

DAWLAT ABIAD

Egypt’s first actress, Dawlat Abiad, was a risk-taker and pioneer in her own right. Born in 1884, long before the establishment of the cinema industry, Abiad was Egypt’s pioneer actress.  Her talent was recognized when she was a student at boarding school, but her first real push came when she met famous drama artist Aziz Eid.  Struck by her beauty and talent, Eid invited her join his drama troupe as the main actress.  Mostly cast in comic roles in the troupe, Abiad soon left the troupe when she found that her love of drama was not fulfilled.

At the age of 23, opportunity came knocking at Abiad’s door: the actress playing Queen Jocuste in Oedipus fell and Abiad stepped in.  From then on, Abiad took on major classical roles like Desdemona in Othello and Dalilah in Samson and Dalilah for George Abiad’s theatre troupe.  After the establishment of the cinema industry in Egypt, Abiad took her performances to the silver screen, starring in films like Zeinab, El Warda El Beeda (The White Flower), and El Morahiqeen (The Teenagers).  Younger audiences may remember her in the role of the grandmother in the 1972 film Imbratoriyyit Meem (Empire M).

She was awarded the state Award for Pioneer Acting and the Nile Cinema Award.

TAHIA HALIM

Tahia Halim was an artist of legendary realism. In 1958, she became the first female and first Egyptian to win the Guggenheim prize and the Guggenheim Museum in New York later purchased Halim’s painting ‘Hanan’ (‘Tenderness’).

Although Halim made a full-time career out of painting, she traveled to Paris after her marriage to Hamed Abdullah in 1945.  There, she enrolled at the Julian Academy and exhibited her work in London frequently.  When Halim returned to Egypt in 1951, she had developed a more confident personal style, which came to be known as folkloric impressionism.  She showed her work at local and international exhibitions, traveling from Alexandria to Sao Paolo and Venice.  In the 1960s, Halim came to be known as a pioneer of the modern expressive movement.  During this time, her paintings focused on the day-to-day lives of women from old Nubia before it was drowned under Lake Nasser.

Throughout her lifetime, Halim’s work was characterized by a simple but poetic style.  She received the Golden Award from the Cairo Salon in 1960, the Ali Labib Gabr prize in 1960, the State Prize in 1968, the Medal of Arts and Sciences of the first degree in 1968, and the Arts Award from the Higher Institute of Culture in 1995.

Her work is still exhibited at the Egyptian Museum of Modern Art in Cairo, the Fine Arts Museum in Alexandria, the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm and in museums in Poland and America. Select pieces can also be found in embassies and private collections worldwide. Egyptian national television produced a documentary about her life, and her life story was adapted into a musical drama for the stage.

FARIDA FAHMY

During an interview with Sahra Sa’eeda in 1994, Farida Fahmy called herself “one flower in a bouquet,” and indeed, she is remembered as one of Egypt’s pioneer dancers. Farida Fahmy’s role in Egypt’s first and most prestigious folkloric dance troupe in the 1960s and 1970s made her a key figure in contemporary Egyptian heritage.

Born in 1940, Fahmy was born into a well-educated family.  Encouraged by her father, Fahmy became the lead female dancer in Reda Troupe at a young age, dancing alongside her brother-in-law, Mahmoud Reda.  Together, the duo re-defined dance philosophy in Egypt and created an audience for Egyptian folk dance.  Throughout the 1960s, they toured Egypt with their folkloric dance routines.  Fahmy also starred in a number of iconic musical films, including Gharam Fel Karnak (Love in the Karnak), and Agazet Nos El Sana (Mid-year Holiday).

Fahmy continued to pursue her studies while she was performing in the Reda Troupe, and received her bachelor of arts in English literature from Cairo University in 1967.  Her social status and artistic career, together with her academic achievements, improved social perceptions of female dancers at the time.  She and Reda were decorated with the Order of Arts and Sciences for services rendered to the state through art, and honored by King Hussein of Jordan in 1965 and later by Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba.  Fahmy and Reda were often sent abroad as goodwill ambassadors and for cultural exchange programs.

Now in her 70s, Fahmy continues to teach Egyptian folk dance abroad.

FATMA ROUSHDY

Known as “Sarah Bernhardt of the East,” Fatma Roushdy was an iconic figure in Egyptian theater and film in the 1920s and 1930s.  Born in Alexandria in 1908, Roushdy was just 10-years old when theater producer Amin Atallah offered her a role on stage; her performance of “Tel’et ya mahla nourha” is said to have left a deep impression on Sayed Darwish, who, to please her, bought her EGP 2 worth of sweets.  Later in her life, Roushdy credited singer and composer Sayed Darwish and playwright Mohamed Taymour for her success.

But the real turning point in Roushdy’s career came when she met her future husband, Aziz Eid, in “Qahwet el-Fan” on Emad el-Din Street in Cairo.  Acting as her mentor, Eid worked to transform this intuitive, talented girl into a literate woman.  He helped her learn to read and write, and educated her about theatrical genres and choreographies.  Within two years, Roushdy was the best actress in the Ramsis Group. The talented couple co-founded a theatrical troupe, and, due to the enormous success that hailed from it, she was nicknamed “Sarah Bernardt of the East.”  Roushdy later co-founded a production company and became famous in cinema for her leading role in the 1939 film Determination.

Roushdy married four times throughout her lifetime, and co-founded a theater troupe and film production company.  Although her life was very glamorous, she later fell sick and broke, and a group of actors and actresses collected money to buy her a flat in Downtown Cairo.  She died in 1996.

WRITING & JOURNALISM

MAY ZIADE

Born in Lebanon in 1886, Ziade was a writer, journalist and feminist.  She encouraged Arab women to open themselves up to Western culture, without renouncing or disregarding their Arab origins.  Born in Nazareth, Palestine to a Lebanese Maronite father and a Palestinian mother, Ziade was naturalized as an Egyptian citizen at the age of 22.

Growing up in Nazareth, Ziade became familiar with French and Romantic writers like Lamartine, Byron and Shelley, all of whom influenced her later work.  In 1908, Ziade’s family moved to Egypt, where her father founded Al-Mahroussah newspaper.  In Egypt, Ziade contributed to her father’s newspaper and learned French and Arabic.  Eventually, Ziade was fluent in French and Arabic, and became proficient in a number of other languages, including English, Italian, German, Spanish, Latin and Greek.

At 26, she became a patron for male and female artists, who would gather in her intellectual salon in the 1920s and 1930s.  She organized a women’s conference in 1921, and female emancipation became a central theme in her poetry, articles and books.  Ziade also published works of criticism, biographies, volumes of free-verse poetry, essays and novels.  She translated the works of many Western writers in Arabic, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle from English and Max Müller from German.

Ziade believed that ignorance and anachronistic traditions hindered the progress of women; she did not believe that women’s emancipation had to be pursued at the expense of femininity.  Ziade’s writings still resonate today: “A woman enslaved could not breastfeed her children with her own milk,” she wrote, “that milk smelled strongly of servitude.”

Ziade was nominated by the Lebanese Minister of Culture as the person of the year in 1999.

LUCY YACOUB

Born in Alexandria, Lucy Yaacoub was a renowned writer, translator and journalist. Yaacoub was born into the generation that struggled with the expectations set by the generation of literary giants like Taha Hussein, Abbas El-Aqqad, Tawfik El-Hakim, Mohamed Taymour, Naguib Mahfouz and Youssef Idris. In spite of being squeezed between two generations of prolific writers, Yacoub managed to cut out a prominent place for herself in Egyptian literature.

Yacoub’s career started at the age of 7, when, fascinated by the literary world promoted by the intellectual magazines of the time, she entered a literary competition.  Her first collection of short stories, titled Uyoun Zalima (Unfair Eyes, 1970), gained her popularity in literary circles. In his introduction to the collection, editor Mohamed Zaki Abdel-Qader admired Yacoub’s candid and sometimes explicit expression of thoughts and emotions. Yacoub’s defiance of norms in her novels gave readers a woman’s honest perspective on love.

In the late 1970s, Yacoub became so popular that she was given at least three honorific nicknames, including the virgin of literature, the nun of thought and the daughter of Sinai.  She recounted the story of her name as the ‘daughter of Sinai’ to Al-Ahram Weekly: “In 1960, I joined the staff of Sinai Manganese. This was one of the major national projects and I was in charge of the export and import department. I worked hard, with great enthusiasm and patriotism for seven years.  And it was all in preparation for when we would start. But before we could do so, following the tragic war of 1967, Israel seized the factory.”

Abdel-Qader channeled her disappointment into the daily newspaper, The War, which she founded with Abdel-Moneim El-Sawy. She received an award from the Supreme Council of Arts in 1974 for the brave and honest journalistic work that she did in the Sinai Peninsula. When Sinai was liberated in the early 1980s, Yacoub was the only woman to cover events on the ground, and it was mainly through the press that she became known as “the daughter of Sinai.”

She gained the titles of  ‘nun’ and ‘virgin’ for remaining unmarried throughout her life.  Abdel-Qader claimed that her commitment to writing and her lifelong idealization of her father made it impossible for any man to fit into her life.  During her lifetime, Yacoub wrote some 120 books.  She was also known for her work as a translator of English classics.  She was awarded as writer, translator and cultural figure.

[quote]She gained the titles of  ‘nun’ and ‘virgin’ for remaining unmarried throughout her life.  Abdel-Qader claimed that her commitment to writing and her lifelong idealization of her father made it impossible for any man to fit into her life.  During her lifetime, Yacoub wrote some 120 books.  She was also known for her work as a translator of English classics.  She was awarded as writer, translator and cultural figure.[/quote]

RAWYA ATTIA

Born in 1926, Rawya Attia received her bachelor’s degree in Islamic studies from Cairo University in 1947.  She later went on to do her masters in media and journalism, and spent 15 years as a journalist and university professor.  Attia was the first woman to be elected to parliament in 1956, and was later appointed to parliament in 1984.  She was the female representative to the local municipal council in Giza in 1986.  Attia founded the Society for the Care of Martyrs’ Families and was named Mother of the Fighters and Martyrs.

AMINA EL SAWI

Born in Al-Sharqia governorate in 1922, Amina El Sawi was the first woman to graduate from the High Institute of Cinema’s the Department of Criticism and Artistic Research in 1947.  El Sawi wrote literature and poetry and specialized in religious drama.  In 1988, she received the National Award for her outstanding research on then-Dean of Literature, Dr. Taha Hussein.

SPORTS & AVIATION

CAPTAIN SAHAR MANSOUR

Born in 1952, Sahar Mansour was world champion in long-haul swimming at the Saguenay-Chicoutimi race, and became the first female to win in a race in Canada.  She received seven world records for short-haul swimming, and was the first person to receive a silver medal at the age of nine; she was awarded a gold medal for best swimmer in 1963, and kept the title for 10 years.

She participated in the first Mediterranean Open Swimming Championship for Youth in Athens and came out first, winning a gold medal.  Mansour was the only Egyptian woman to receive a gold medal in the free 400m race in Sofia, and won a gold medal for long-haul swimming against the tide in Canada (45 kilometers).  She broke all records in the Napoli championship in 1974, as well as the 24-hour swimming competition in Canada, where she came out first.

Sahar Mansour graduated from the college of physical education and later received her masters and taught at the Faculty of Physical Education.  She was nationally recognized and awarded for her accomplishments in sports.

ABLA KHAIRY

Born in 1960, world-swimming champion Abla Khairy started swimming at the age of eight.  She broke her first world record in the 100-meter free-swimming competition, recording 1 minute and 17 seconds in 1973. She participated in the International Nile Championship in 1974 where she swam 32 kilometers in 7 hours, which qualified her to enter the English Channel Race and Windermere Race in England in 1974, where she swam 17 miles in 8 hours, 56 minutes and 17 seconds, and was chosen as honorary guest due to her young age.

In 1974, she crossed the English Channel, making her the first person from the Middle East and Africa to cross the channel.  Not yet 14 at the time of the competition, she was also the youngest swimmer to cross the channel, breaking the world record in 12 hours and 30 minutes.  She crossed the English Channel again in 1975 in 10 hours and 46 minutes.  She came in second in the 34 kilometer Napoli race in Italy, completing the course in 6 hours, 46 minutes and 51 seconds.

[quote]Born in 1960, world-swimming champion Abla Khairy started swimming at the age of eight.  She broke her first world record in the 100-meter free-swimming competition, recording 1 minute and 17 seconds in 1973… In 1974, she crossed the English Channel, making her the first person from the Middle East and Africa to cross the channel.  Not yet 14 at the time of the competition, she was also the youngest swimmer to cross the channel, breaking the world record in 12 hours and 30 minutes. [/quote]

LOTFIA EL NADI

Born in 1907, Lotfia El Nadi was the first female aviator in Egypt.  Determined and rebellious, El Nadi snuck behind her father’s back to attend flying lessons twice a week.  At the age of 26, she became the first Egyptian woman to fly a plane from Cairo to Alexandria.  She is remembered for her courage and love of adventure at a time when Egyptian women were still struggling for equal rights.

El Nadi was a good friend of pioneer American aviator Amelia Earhart and maintained a strong relationship with her throughout her travels.  Filmmaker Wageh George documented her life in a documentary called Take off from the Sand.

[quote]El Nadi snuck behind her father’s back to attend flying lessons twice a week.  At the age of 26, she became the first Egyptian woman to fly a plane from Cairo to Alexandria.  She is remembered for her courage and love of adventure at a time when Egyptian women were still struggling for equal rights.[/quote]

AZIZA MOHARRAM

Another aspiring aviator, Aziza Moharram was born in 1919.  She was one of the first Egyptian women to enter the field of civil aviation after graduating from Egyptair Academy in 1945, but as a woman, she was not allowed to work as a pilot.  She became an instructor at the Academy and later became head instructor in 1958, after flying 22 thousand hours.

Moharram encouraged women to enroll in flying school by dropping leaflets on the campus of Cairo University from a plane.  During her time as head instructor at Egyptair Academy, she oversaw the training and certification of over 300 Arab and African pilots.  She died in August 1997.

WOMEN IN MEDICINE

SAMEERA MOUSSA

Born in Zifta in 1917, Sameera Moussa’s life was beset by scientific discovery and tragedy.  After witnessing her mother die of cancer at an early age, Moussa moved to Cairo.  At the insistence of her father, she completed her education, and later became Egypt’s first nuclear scientist and the first woman to receive a doctorate in atomic radiation.  Moussa’s keenness to make medical use of nuclear technology drove her to set up a conference under the banner “Atoms for Peace.”  According to reports from the time, Moussa wanted to make cancer cures that were “as cheap as Aspirin.”

After doing research in England, Moussa received a scholarship from the Fulbright atomic program in America.  There, she became the first foreigner to visit US atomic facilities, creating a huge security controversy in America.  Moussa declined numerous offers to stay and work in the US, claiming that she wanted to return to Egypt and serve her country.

In August 1952, Moussa was killed in a car accident while taking her last trip in America.  Her controversial scientific work on cancer treatments and her discoveries in atomic energy coupled with the outrage that followed her visit to the US atomic facilities led many to believe that Moussa was assassinated.  Many questions about the circumstances surrounding her death remain unanswered to this day.

OM ALI

An ordinary Egyptian woman, little is known about the early years of Om Ali’s life.  She began her career as a nurse in a doctor’s clinic in Port Said, but refused to leave when the city was evacuated during the 1956 war.

In Port Said, she tended to the wounded and helped hide and smuggle some of the fedayeen out of the city during the war.  She also helped provide arms to her colleagues, hiding the weapons in fish baskets and under her patients’ beds. Her heroic endeavors are still remembered by Port Said’s residents.

[quote]she tended to the wounded and helped hide and smuggle some of the fedayeen out of the city during the war.  She also helped provide arms to her colleagues, hiding the weapons in fish baskets and under her patients’ beds. Her heroic endeavors are still remembered by Port Said’s residents.[/quote]

DR. ZAHEERA ABDIN

Born in 1917, Zaheera Abdin was a forerunner in social pediatrics and is widely recognized as one of Egypt’s leading physicians.  She received her bachelor’s degree in science in 1936, and went on to study pediatrics at Al Qasr Al-Ainy University in Cairo, where she completed her doctorate and later became head of the pediatrics department.  In 1957, Abdin established an NGO to combat rheumatic heart disease – a leading cause of child mortality at the time. Throughout her lifetime, she established a number of foundations to raise awareness about rheumatic heart disease; through her foundations, hospitals and medical centers, she conducted research, trained physicians and provided medical services to less privileged communities.

In 1948, she became the first Egyptian woman to become a member of the British Royal Society of Medicine.  In 1980, Abdin received an honorary doctorate from Edinburgh University in England.  She is widely remembered as the “Mother of Egyptian Doctors.”

DR. HELANA SIDAROS

Born in 1904, Helena Sidaros was the first female doctor in Egypt, and one of the first Egyptian women to study abroad. After returning from London a qualified doctor in 1930, Sidaros worked at Kitchener Hospital. She later opened a private clinic for obstetrics and gynecology. She continued to practice medicine until the age of 70.

DR. IKRAM ABDEL SALAM AHMED

Ikram Abdel Salam was born in 1932 and received her bachelor’s degree in medicine and surgery in 1955. After completing her master’s degree in genetics from the University of Edinburgh in 1968, she went on to do a second masters degree in the chemistry of genetic diseases at Cairo University. She completed her doctorate in pediatrics in 1960.

Abdel Salam represented Egypt at the American Society for Pancreatic Cirrhosis, and founded the first unit for medical genetics at Cairo University in 1962.  She received national and international awards, including the National Award for Science (1979), the Medal of Sciences of the First Degree (1979), and the American Academy for Science Award (1981).

DR. AMIRA SOLIMAN ABDEL MALEK

Amira Abdel Malek was one of the first Egyptian women to join the Veterinary Medical College in 1947, along with her colleague Tahany Michael.  After receiving her doctorate, she worked at the Institute of Animal Research and later became a research professor.

DR. ZEINAB EL SOBKY

Born in 1924, Zeinab El Sobky received her bachelor’s degree in surgery in 1946 and went on to do her masters in blood banks at Washington University.  El Sobky was head of the Cancer Society in 1959 and a member of the Doctor’s Union.  She was elected as a member of the parliament from 1979 to 1984.

She was recognized for her work in education and medicine, and received the Medal of Merit of the First Degree, and the Order of Merit from the Ministry of Higher Education, as well as the Doctor’s Shield and the Order of Virtue.

DR. WAFAA ANTONIOS MOUSSA

Born in 1935, Wafaa Antonios Moussa received her bachelor’s degree in medicine and surgery in 1958.  In 1963, she completed her master’s degree and doctorate in general health.  After doing an internship in England, she returned to head the Institute of Nutrition in Cairo.
She was named the Ideal Doctor in 1985 and was honored by the Doctors’ Union in 1996.  She was also honored by the World Health Organization and was appointed international member consultant for nutrition.

[quote]El Sawi wrote literature and poetry and specialized in religious drama. In 1988, she received the National Award for her outstanding research on then-Dean of Literature, Dr. Taha Hussein[/quote]

EDUCATION & ACADEMICS

DR. IGLAL KHALIFA

Born in 1924, Iglal Khalifa was a pioneer in academic journalism.  Paving the way for women at universities, Khalifa went to night school and completed her primary education at the age of 32, and then went on to junior and high school.  She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1962, making her the first woman to study journalism at Al-Azhar University.  She went on to do her masters in Islamic studies and journalism, and completed her doctorate in journalism studies in 1969.

Khalifa worked as a reporter at Al-Ahram newspaper, and became a university professor in 1971.  She later became head of the department of journalism at the mass communication college at Al-Azhar and was appointed assistant to the dean for higher education and research in 1981.

Over the course of her career, she acted as visiting professor to several Arab universities, represented Egypt at international scientific conferences, and taught Islamic journalism studies in England.  She wrote a number of books on journalistic trends and women’s movements.  She was also was a founding member of Awladi Orphanage.

AMINA HAFEZ EL-MAGHRABY

Born in the late 1800s, Amina El-Maghraby was one of the first women to join the teaching department at the Seneya School in 1900.  She later received a government grant from the Ministry of Education to study children’s education at Stockwell School in England.  At the time, it was unheard of for girls to travel alone to study, and her uncle accompanied her to England.  Upon returning to Egypt, she was hired as a teacher at Abbas School for Girls.

DR. JOSEPHINE KAMEL

Josephine Kamel received her bachelor’s degree in botany in 1948, and was the first to receive a doctorate on the effects of chemicals and high temperatures on certain viruses.  Kamel became assistant professor at the department of paleontology, and later became a professor at Cairo University.

She did several studies in her field, the most important of which is the effect of Gama X-rays on the seeds of certain plants.  She shared her research at the Basateen Conference in 1961, where the results were much appreciated.  Kamel was honored by the state on a number of occasions.

DR. TAHANY ABOUL FATHY

Born in 1939, Tahany Aboul Fath received her bachelor’s degree from Cairo University’s department of agriculture in 1959.  In 1971, she completed her doctorate in genetics.

She became assistant researcher at the National Institute of Research and specialized in micro-genetics.  She was made research professor for genetic engineering in 1985, and later appointed department head in 1988.  She was a member of several scientific societies, including the Egyptian Society for Genetics.

DR. HORREYA MOGAHED

Born in 1939, Horreya Mogahed received her bachelor’s degree in political science in 1956.  She was the first woman to receive her doctorate in political science on Mali’s one-party system from Indiana University in 1966.  She later became the first female to head the department of political science at Cairo University in 1986, where she remained for six years.

She was the first director for the Center of Research and Political Sciences in 1986.

[quote]Amira Abdel Malek was one of the first Egyptian women to join the Veterinary Medical College in 1947, along with her colleague Tahany Michael.  After receiving her doctorate, she worked at the Institute of Animal Research and later became a research professor[/quote]

HUMANITARIAN & SOCIAL WORKERS

ISTEKLAL RADI

Born in 1919, Radi was one of the pioneers of humanitarian work in Egypt.  In 1950, she became a member of the Red Crescent Committee, and assisted in founding a center for vocational rehabilitation of war veterans. She was a board member of the Union for the Mentally Disabled and the Association of Family-Produced Handicrafts (El-Osar El-Montega).

In 1954, she founded the first organization for blind girls (Al Nour wal Amal). She was a member of an emergency committee during the 1956 war, and was responsible for the hospital committee during the 1967 War. Radi was also a member of the Women’s Rights Committee.  She received the Order of the Virtue for her contribution to society in 1975.

HAWA IDRIS

Although little is known about Hawa Idris’s early life, she is remembered for pioneering work in social services from the 1930s to the late 1950s.  Idris joined the women’s liberation movement and headed a group called Sisters of the Arab Union, founded in 1933.

A cousin of Hoda Shaarawi, Idris was especially concerned with caring for families in poor suburbs, and was especially keen on providing care for children in orphanages. She represented Egyptian women in several conferences in China, Jordan, Lebanon and Sudan.

WOMEN IN POLITICS

IHSAN NOUH

Although she started her career as an Arabic teacher, Ihsan Nouh later became the first woman to become mayor of her hometown, Berket El Sabaa.

Nouh joined the National Democratic Party in 1988, and from then on, she dedicated her life to politics.

Nouh lobbied for the post of Alderman (Sheikh El Balad) in her hometown in 1999, being the first female to take up the post.  This paved the way to her becoming first female mayor of Berket El Sabaa.

ESTHER FAHMY WISSA

Born in 1895, Wissa studied at the American Missionary School in Assiut, where she memorized the Bible and Qura’an.  She was politically active from an early age, and participated in demonstrations during the 1919 revolution with her aunt, Regina Khayat.

Wissa joined the Hoda Shaarawi Committee in the Wafd Party.  She became famous for her political views, and is especially known for her famous newspaper articles addressed to Lord Allenby, British High Commissioner to Egypt and the Sudan, to release Saad Zaghloul and other political detainees from prison.

In 1924, she founded a society called “Working for Egypt,” and headed it until 1962.  Wissa was awarded the Order of Virtue in 1969.

ZOHRA RAGAB

Born in Alexandria in 1916, Zohra Ragab was a prominent politician and member of the parliament.  In 1964, Ragab competed and won against 14 male representatives for a seat in parliament.  In 1955, she founded and headed the Housewives Society in Giza.

She was a founding member of Balady NGO and later founded a chapter of the Red Crescent society in Giza.  She also initiated a foundation for children’s nurseries in rural areas. Ragab was also one of three girls to pass the examinations to fly a private plane.

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