In the words of Asmaa Bakr: “I have been acting like a change-maker to those around me”
Story originally published on UN Women Egypt‘s website.
Like many women in her village, Asmaa spent most of her time doing housework, then waiting for her two children and her husband to return home. And, like many women in impoverished rural areas, her family had few finances.
I live in my husband’s family home, and it is the norm for all the women in the family to stay home all day. I could even stay for 12 hours all alone in my room until my husband and children returned. This really affected me emotionally. My life turned upside down when my husband broke both his arms in an accident, leaving him at home without the ability to work. Of course, money was very tight at that time, and I found it hard to ask for help. That is when I heard about the programme. It was like the perfect solution at a time of dire need.
The programme opened a whole new world before me. Honestly, because of the way I was raised, I felt easily intimated. Thankfully, through the training I received, my communication skills improved immensely. I was put in situations that would drive me mad – like trying to close a sales deal – but I learned how to control my temper.
Getting out of the house and becoming comfortable in dealing with and being exposed to different types of people was a true turning point in my personal development and emotional well-being. Surprisingly, at my age, I always felt insecure going around alone. Now I feel independent – something I hope my kids can learn early rather than the hard way.
My journey started right after the training and receiving the seed capital to run my business. It wasn’t easy in the beginning to rent my own shop. So, like other trainees, I and my five partners decided to turn our own houses into outlets where we could sell our share of products. Knowing the needs of our neighbourhood, we began selling sanitary pads, beauty products and accessories. We soon expanded and added dairy products and juices, chocolates, and even ready-made clothes and linens.
Now, we are well known around the area, and we have built bridges of trust with a wide base of customers. We have even succeeded in becoming wholesalers and sourcing local supermarkets.
The situation at home has improved drastically. Most importantly, I have been acting like a change-maker to those around me. I don’t ask for financial support – something that I always wished for and never believed was possible with my intermediate level of education. People like me are mostly jobless, working on farms in vulnerable situations, or in the best-case scenario are married to a husband who is always able to provide. Now I can provide for my children and support my husband too. From the profits I saved, I was even able to buy a new stove, fridge, water heater and semiautomatic washing machine – lot of stuff that made my life easier at home and which I never dreamed of having until I earned my own money and had a say over it.
I feel how much I have advanced in my knowledge, experience, and exposure. I am a businesswoman and a proud wife who has crafted her own identity.”
The “Stimulating Equal Opportunities for Women Entrepreneurs” brochure summarizes the results of the strong partnership between UN Women and Procter and Gamble (P&G) that started in 2017 in support of women’s economic empowerment in Egypt and promote greater diversity and inclusion through equipping women entrepreneurs with the skills and support they need to access opportunities as potential suppliers and distributors. Women received trainings on business development, marketing, sales techniques, financial management and soft skills. Afterwards, selected women obtained funding to establish their own private business in the retail industry with many being integrated in the distribution channel of many large corporates including P&G, Juhayna, and Mars.
The “Stimulating Equal Opportunities for Women Entrepreneurs” programme is implemented in Beni Suef and Minya, within the framework of the global P&G/UN Women programme. This project is part of UN Women’s wider Women’s Economic Empowerment portfolio in Egypt, which is implemented in partnership with the Government of Egypt and in collaboration with the private sector.