In the words of Nora Salem: “I want everyone to see me and know that I am here”

Nora defied all stereotypes of women in her rural village. Despite being one of the few divorced women in her village, she decided she wanted to be the first woman to drive a motor tricycle in her village. She was able to do that thanks to the confidence and skills she gained through the programme.

Nora Salem riding her motor tricycle
Nora, one of the programme's beneficiaries on the tricycle that she bought to better distribute her products in Beni-Suef governorate. Photo: UN Women.

“Devastated at being an abandoned woman divorced with two kids, I wanted to prove to myself, my fellow villagers, and above all my children that I could excel in life alone, no matter how hard it might be. With no alimony from my divorce, I started working at a hospital to provide for my children. However, the working hours were too long for a single mother playing both roles (of father and mother). So, after a while, I quit and began living off my father’s pension. When I first heard about the programme, I was a bit shy, but decided to give it a shot. During the first day of training, I kept thinking, ‘I want to build and run my own business, like other women. But I want to create a big bang. I want everyone to see me and know that I am here’.

I decided to buy a motor tricycle and be the first woman ever to own and drive one around our village. I used up my life savings of EGP 4,000 (US$165) to buy it. In our village, women are not seen driving much. As I wanted to drive with confidence and control the first time I drove in town, I took it outside of town to learn how to drive. When the day came, everyone was surprised to see a woman driving a motor tricycle. When they saw how good a driver I was, they were very supportive.

I started going around my village and six neighbouring villages selling sanitary pads, diapers, soaps, detergents as well as dairy, juice, and chocolates. I am now earning a net profit of around EGP 4,000 a month.

Although I did not see myself as such before, I now recognise how strong I am. I can defy the norms and succeed on my own. I felt accomplished when my daughter told me one day that she wants to start her own successful business, ‘just like you, Mum’.

The programme not only helped me provide for my children and put them through college, but it helped me heal emotionally and psychologically. I stopped viewing myself as a victim and I learned how to stand up for myself and prove what I can do. I also changed the perception of everyone around me. At first, my family and neighbors were against my divorce, despite the misery I was living. Everyone kept telling me to hold onto my husband, who would provide for us. Now, they say he’s the one who missed out on a good life with me.

I dream big. My daily dream is for my business to grow until I can open my own detergent shop. Later, I want to build a detergent brand and become its sole vendor in Beni Suef. And eventually, I dream of opening my own detergent factory. I want to leave something for my children that they can be proud of.

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.

Originally published on UN Women Egypt’s website