The Way Forward for Women Entrepreneurs in Egypt

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The fundamental role of women in Egypt’s revolution and growing its economy was the focus of the event “Co-Creation: Women and Entrepreneurship World Cafe” held recently at The District in Cairo.

The “Cafe” in the title was nothing to do with hot drinks and snacks; it was about how people discussed the topic at hand. The standard cafe setting has small groups of people together in a relaxed, non-judgemental, and open atmosphere; this event was the same, except that the conversation was directed towards meaningful issues. This is also the essence of “co-creation;” the event provided the overarching subject, but the attendees themselves chose which areas they focused on.

The main organizers, Eline Hennink and Veronica Yow, were very conscious that they didn’t want to be foreigners dictating the debate in any way; the local attendees had to be the real drivers as this ensured sustainability and biggest impact. Both of them, however, do have useful pertinent experience in this field, and this was obvious from the organisation of the event.

At the beginning people “checked in” by answering the question, “What did you want to be as a child?”  This made sure everyone began in the same place mentally and emotionally. The cafe section then focused on the following questions: “What moves you into taking action?”; “How did you take action?”; and “How can we best move forward as a group?”

The day also included talks by the following pioneering women: Yasmine Helal, athlete, engineer, and social entrepreneur, and founder of Educate-Me; Rania Badr El-Din, social entrepreneur and founder of Mother & Child magazine; and Mona Arishi, a pioneering business woman, manager of IBM’s local Corporate Social Responsiblity programme, and Director of L’Eve Institut.

By the end, attendees had agreed upon these follow-up action steps: regular face-to-face meetups, developing an online platform, and the creation of special interest groups. Everyone attending agreed much more needed to be done to elevate the status of women, and that this would in turn be a prime economic factor in Egypt’s growth.  Egyptian’s needed a revolution in their own mindsets.

The event ended with a “check out” question, “how do you feel at this moment?”  As everyone was standing together in a circle the positive energy was channelled inwards yet also shared collectively. 

This collaborative and emotionally intelligent temperament is probably just as important to the economic and cultural development of Egypt, as is the progression of female issues.  And perhaps the two can only progress together!

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