In the words of Mervat Azzmy: "Along the way, I started building my new identity and began rediscovering the world"


Although Mervat was living a quiet life with her husband and three children in her rural village, something was pressing hard on her own mind and heart. Seeing her siblings – mostly men – better off, she always dreamed of working and establishing her own business, to support her husband and have a better life. She was looking for her own identity, apart from being a mother and a married woman. She looked for an active role beyond that of a homemaker. So, she eagerly joined the programme as soon as she heard about it.

Mervat Azzmy
Photo of Mervat Azzmy at her village in Minya governorate. Photo: UN Women/ Nada Ismail

“As a young girl, my dreams were to complete high school, go to college and have my own private business. Marriage was still among my dreams, yet it was at a later stage. However, my family insisted that I only complete intermediate education. I got married as soon as I finished, at around 18 years old. Life got busy with raising three children, so owning and running a business became a far-reached dream that seemed almost impossible. However, in time, I started a small business from my home as a hairdresser for close family members and neighbors. Yet, resources and time were limited, so I couldn’t sustain it.

This is why I thought that the programme would be the perfect opportunity to finally start living out my dream – especially as I would not be alone in the business. Along with two other women trainees, we rented out a small shop where we started selling everything a woman may need.

Along the way, I started building my new identity and began rediscovering the world. Before that, I was extremely reserved. I knew nothing except the things I did at home, to the extent that I was afraid of losing my way or getting lost if I went outside of my comfort zone or neighbourhood without a companion (in most cases, a male).

Now, I travel to different villages and even go to the city to buy products and stock my shop. I am no longer afraid or hesitant to experience the outer world. My personality has been transformed 100 per cent. I have gained a lot of confidence and communicate openly and fearlessly. I see myself with a different eye, as a businesswoman with her own identity and not only as a homemaker. I dream to expand my retail business to attend to the needs of the women in my neighbourhood. A supplementary beauty salon is on the table too.

I want to set the tone for my daughters. I am working hard, not only to prove myself, but to ensure that my success is translated into my daughters, who will complete their college education and find the jobs of their dreams.”

Stimulating Equal Opportunities For Women Entrepreneurs

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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.