Egypt Independent

On Women’s Day, stories of Egyptian women who made their mark in the West



As the world celebrates International Women's Day, numerous Egyptian women continue to exert their influence and make their mark, both in Egypt and around the world.

Struggling against the odds, many have risen to great heights within their chosen professions, often dazzling their male contemporaries.

Among them are several who have secured a niche in the power structures and governments of the West, going far beyond the normal expectations of an Egyptian woman.

On this auspicious day, we examine a few fine examples of what can be achieved.

Nemat Shafik: Banking for England

Born in the governorate of Alexandria, Nemat Shafik is commonly known in the foreign press by her childhood nickname, Minouche.

In 2004, the trilingual woman became the youngest representative at the World Bank, where she was tasked with improving the performance of the banking sector, handling investments worth US$50 billion. Minouche supervised the preparations for the financial bailouts of Greece and Portugal.

Minouche was also a Europe and Middle East official at the International Monetary Fund, managing the fund’s administrative budget of $1 billion.

In 2014, she quit her IMF office to become one of two deputies to the governor of the Bank of England, acting as the only female at the bank’s nine-member monetary policy committee.

Minouche was on Forbes magazine’s 2015 list of the world’s most influential women, ranking 66th.

Dalia Megahed: A Muslim in the White House

In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed the young researcher from Cairo’s Sayeda Zeinab district to his Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, an assembly of 25 denominations and secular figures. Her appointment made her the first hijab-clad Muslim to occupy such a post at the White House.

Mogahed was a former chairman at the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, whose research focused on global Muslims-related statistics. She holds a bachelor's in chemical engineering and an MBA.

Her book “Who Speaks for Islam?” — a joint effort with John L. Esposito — is the by-product of six years of research and more than 50,000 interviews reflecting the views of more than one billion Muslims in 35 countries.

Mona Shindy: Guiding Australia’s missiles

The Egypt-born naval captain arrived in Australia when she was only 3 years old, taken there by her emigrating parents. Shindy obtained a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and weapons engineering.

Serving in the Australian Navy has been a real challenge for Shindy, involving some serious experience, such as deployment to the war in Iraq.

However, she rose to the various challenges and was appointed head of the Guided Missile Frigate System Program Office, as well as the navy's senior advisor on Muslim-related issues.  

Commenting on her accomplishment as a naval officer, the Australian government said it hoped she would help paint a positive image of Muslims and their ability to assimilate into different communities.

Nagwa Guweili: A Nubian in the Spanish parliament

Egyptians were surprised recently to learn that a compatriot had been elected to the Spanish parliament. Nagwa Guweili, who hails from Egypt’s Nubian region, made was voted into the chamber with 97,000 votes.

The 24-year-old Egyptian won a seat in Gipuzkoa, a Basque district, representing Podemos, the political party which she co-founded. She chaired the parliament’s opening session and was the youngest member present.

Guweili is the daughter of a Nubian migrant who moved to Spain in 1990.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm