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‘I can stand on my own two feet’

‘My name is Nawal*. I have two sons and a daughter. God has also blessed me with many grandchildren – 16 in total. Although I have a large family, I live alone. I own a small shop, a kiosk. I lead an independent life and am able to provide for myself. I also breed chickens. When they are fully grown, I give them to my children.  

My kiosk used to be my husband’s shop, but he passed away. After his death, it was up to me to run the shop and earn my living. Unfortunately, he was a better salesperson than I am. He knew how to please our customers and what they wanted. He made sure we kept stock of the items that our customers wanted to buy. That is why, at the time, we had a large variety of products on our shelves. I don’t have his skills and I just sell the products that my suppliers send me. 

In Egypt we have an expression: “standing on your own two feet”. It means that you are independent, that you can survive without any help. I feel that this saying is about me, because I work and provide for myself, I earn my own income and I am not a burden to my children. This makes me feel strong and capable. When life is difficult and money is tight, a woman must help her husband, no matter what it takes. A husband and wife must share their responsibilities. When my husband was still alive, he took care of the shop. I baked bread, made pickles and fried falafel, which I sold every morning to the workers on their way to work. It was something I could do from home and I made money at the same time.

I believe God is good. He has given me health, strength and perfect eyesight. I must use these gifts in a meaningful way. My husband used to grow cotton and corn. When I was younger, I worked alongside him during the harvest season. My husband was always so kind – he appreciated my help. Today, I am over 80 years old, but I am still able to work in the shop and I am there as often as I can be. I truly believe that my health would suffer if I stayed home. I need to go to work every morning, my work gives me purpose and keeps me busy.

We may have been poor, but my husband always took care of me. He treated me with love, care and tenderness. That made me feel very feminine. Whenever we had money, my husband would kiss my hand. That was his way to thank me for working all those hours. I was often tired because I worked so hard, but I never complained. One must be strong and stand on her own two feet.

I was married to my husband for 43 years. We had a very good marriage. I see myself as a successful mother and grandmother. I was able to raise my children to be good people who married well and who now have successful families of their own. Some of my grandchildren are physicians and they make me very proud.

I have a good relationship with my neighbours, one that is based on friendship, loyalty and understanding. We take care of each other and try to help each other any way we can. During hard times we share what little we have. If anyone is ever in need of help in my hometown, everyone is considered family.

To me, a powerful woman is a woman who takes care of her family by attending to her children’s needs and by caring for them and loving them. A mother gives life, meaning and direction to her family members, no matter whether they are rich or poor.

That is why it is so important to choose a good wife. It is also mentioned in the bible: “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her value is far greater than rubies. Her house is always full of riches and she does not need help from anyone.” She knows how to make do with whatever she has. And whenever you visit her home, you will receive a warm welcome and she will make you feel right at home. My daughters-in-law are like this.

My mother is my role model. She was truly one of a kind and the kindest person in the world. She was so generous and gave others all she ever had. Everyone admired her and loved her immensely.

In my opinion, a woman must work hard for her children and be independent. I instilled the same values in my daughters-in-law and they have always provided for all their families’ needs. A woman must work for as long as she has the energy and strength to do so.

Not all women are treated the way they ought to be. I feel that this is the result of our traditions and of ignorance. Some men are frightened by independent women. My husband was considerate and smart, but not every woman is as lucky as I was. In general, our society admires independent women who raise their children to become the best version of themselves.

I would like to be remembered as a woman who was blessed by God and who never hurt anyone during her lifetime. When I am no longer around, I want my children to remember me and to continue to talk about me. I want them to speak about me the way they do now. I have left all my belongings to my children in my will. Remember: honesty matters most. Never take money that you didn’t earn. Trade is like milk: if it’s spoiled, it’s no longer of value.’ 

*Not her real name. At the participants request, we have used a pseudonym for this contribution.  

EG_Nawal (1)
EG_Nawal (6)

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