"WE SHOULDHELP WOMEN FROM BEING 'ABUSED, BROKEN, HOPELESS' TO 'NOTHING CAN STOP US'." GHADA LABIB, VISION OF AN ENGAGED POLITICAL WOMAN IN AHOU ATTITUDE MAGAZINE
Ghada Labib was born in Egypt. His father, a professor of philosophy, was an executive of the Faculty of Arts at Cairo University, a man known regionally and internationally. The young woman grew up surrounded by walls of books, enjoying reading poetry, encyclopedias while enjoying the arts and music. Today, Vice-Minister of Institutional Development at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology in Cairo, Egypt, she confides in Ahou Attitude Magazine about her childhood, her life journey and her vision of the place of women in our societies.
Interview conducted by Pamela Annick N'guessan
1 / Tell us about your childhood in Egypt? What important moments marked in this period of your life?
My father was a professor of philosophy, well reputed in the region and internationally along the years, working mainly as part of the Faculty of Arts in
Cairo University. I grew up surrounded by walls of books, reading poetry, Encyclopaedias, appreciating arts and music. I was mesmerized by well-known
writers, philosophers, and many of my fathers’ circle. I would be observing their deep discussions about many areas of life, despite the fact a lot of their
conversation escaped my understanding at that time, the vitality of the discussion and their interaction triggered my deep admiration. My father was such a wise and religious man, and he had the utmost respect
for women and believed in its angelic nature.
My mother enjoys travelling, she loves people, she loves Egypt, so we travelled frequently during my childhood all over Egypt and later heading to a young
adulthood, abroad. I would say the way I was brought up taught me to be curious and open-minded.
My father was treated my mother as a queen, he has been sweet and tender, a friend, a husband, and a father.
"GHADA IS AN ARABIC NAME, AND IT REFERS TO WOMEN WHO ARE GRACEFUL AND ACTIVE, TENDER, AND ENCHANTING, GIVING AND ENGLIGHTENING."
The important moments marked in this period when I went back home from school and found my mother waiting for us. Lunch was always ready “hot &
delicious” and at night, the dinner was always the responsibility of my father, although he went back home after tiring days, I can’t remember that he
complained one day! I have one elder sister and one younger brother. My childhood was amazing and quiet. I was raised in a happy family, so far.
2 / Little girl, what future did you dream of?
I dreamed to love and be loved. I dreamed to make a difference. To leave small world better, now I believe that I will leave the whole world better
3 / What values did your parents pass on to you?
My father taught me to be kind. Kindness, as he used to say, is respecting each other’s humanity, loving mankind. Diligence is another value he passed on to
me as I grew up and started school, around 7 years old. He also taught me to
show humility and be honourable, he taught me the meaning and value of
My mother is above all, courageous and ambitious, and she passed this on to
me. She thought me to keep a curious mind, overcome my fears to be able to
choose my own path and live a meaningful life.
And, generosity, to give more than to take.
4 / Does the first name Ghada have a special meaning? Did your parents used to give you a nickname? If yes which?
Ghada is an Arabic name, and it refers to women who are graceful and active, tender, and enchanting, giving and enlightening. My parents used to nickname
me “Doudou” affectionately.
5 / Teenage girl were you rather rebellious or withdrawn?
I wasn’t rebellious at all. I was and till now, very keen to not upset my mother. She always looks at me very high. May God bless her.
6 / From what age were you allowed to go out with a boy?
I went to a French School, a mixed school when I was 5 years old to 17 years old, many of my friends are boys (till now) and I joined the Faculty of engineering at Cairo University “so very few girls studying engineering”. I had no restriction what soever. I have never felt that there is a difference between boys and girls.
7 / Did you, a teenage girl, dream of succeeding in the business and political world?
No. I dreamed to live a quiet life with no struggle. Almost, I live differently than I dreamed of but enjoying, so far.
8/ How would you define Egyptian culture?
Egypt is one of the earliest civilizations in the world and we have been through a lot. Egypt is diverse, with a rich culture but one thing that is universally true so to say: no matter where you go in Egypt you will always find people eager to help, people who are hospitable, people who would go out of their way to help you. It’s such a beautiful thing that you don’t find all over the world.
9 / Define for us the Egyptian woman in general;
I don’t like to generalize, we have such a rich and diverse population, but two
common predominant qualities are versatility and resilience. The Egyptian
woman is beautiful and gracious, but also savvy and tenacious, she is also
hardworking, resilient to the day-to-day struggles, she overcomes obstacles
with tenacity, and she does it with utmost dignity.
"MY MOTHER, AMAL, INSPIRED MY CAREER. SHE TAUGHT ME TO CURIOUS, COURAGEOUS AND AMBITIOUS."
10 / How do you see your country? What is the place of women in Egyptian’s society? Are the inequalities between men and women important? Do women
encounter professional integration problems?
My country is beautiful. A great nation with great people who need to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
In Egypt, there has been dramatic progress in women’s political representation. Without a doubt, Egypt is heading towards the right track. In the Parliament, women are currently occupying 148 seats, compared to 89 seats back in 2015. Egypt is already witnessing the power of women in its Cabinet by having eight female ministers to date, as well as one current female governor for Damietta governorate. Even in the public sector, many senior officials are women. Recently, and for the first time, women were appointed as judges in all judicial institutions. Moreover, the new law of establishing companies states that the board should have women representation. This reflects the political leadership’s confidence in women's capabilities and potential.
We are building now; we have been through a lot. We have a unique set of challenges internally and externally; we are a very large country so things
aren’t easy as one might think. But we are progressing, we are building a Digital Egypt, a better Egypt for everyone but this takes time. Nothing happens
overnight or in 2 years only, it’s a lengthy process as we have seen from other countries examples, but we are en-route. We in the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), as well as my colleagues in other ministries, have identified the common challenges to women’s workforce integration and we are working on addressing them. Just to name
an example, we as MCIT have targeted programs for women’s capacity building meant to enhance their employability, we aim to train them on digital literacy concepts, digital marketing, e-commerce and so on.
SOCIAL MEDIA :
11 / In what area do you engage socially? Why do women marry at a young age in your country?
I engage socially in many topics but most importantly matters related to women, students, and education. The legal age for a woman to marry in Egypt is 18 years of age, of course same as in other countries, there is a challenge with women marrying young especially in the rural areas. We are working on creating opportunities for them to study, learn more skills and help them gain
independence so to give them a new perspective on life and its possibilities. I think that it is not only in my country is for women everywhere so we should
help women from being “abused, broken, hopeless” to “nothing can stop us”.
12 /Why is it important for you to support women in the entrepreneurship sector?
It’s important to me to support all citizens in the entrepreneurship sector. We need innovation and entrepreneurship for economic growth and progress.
Technology and innovation have been the basis of progress and development across history. Women are as capable as any male counterpart to innovate and
be a successful entrepreneur, but I guess sometimes we tend to be less of a risk taker than our male counterparts and we might also tend to have more
responsibilities which act as barriers in this regard.
13 / Give us the name of the woman who inspired your career.
My mother, Amal, inspired my career. She taught me to be curious, courageous and ambitious which was the steppingstone to my development and attitude in life.
14 / You have matured, in addition to the values instilled by your parents? What values you have today?
Off course most importantly, I have become more resilient than both of my parents so resilience it’s a main value I get by today. I also have developed a heightened sense of duty, a sense of loyalty: I must serve my country and help in paving the way for better future. I also value a lot the beautiful people I was
blessed to have in my circle, so friendship is very important to me.
15 / At what age did you get married? How would you define life as a couple?
What did the man who shares your life bring you?
I was married at 25 years old; I met my ex-husband in the college when I was 20 years old. This was love from the first sight. Unfortunately, we were not closed! Gap started to be bigger and bigger through the years and all this because we didn’t talk frequently about what bothering each other. Although the distance, he brought me good values as integrity and honesty.
16 / You are a mother, an internationally recognized businesswoman and political woman. Is it easy to combine a family life with a job with such responsibility?
Off course, it’s not easy, nothing ever comes easy in life, but you learn, and you get better at things. I had to define my priorities, focus on what’s important,
continuously find new ways to do things more effectively and efficiently. Don’t waste time with small, low value activities, learn to delegate and put proper systems in place for maximum outcomes.
"IN EGYPT WOMEN REPRESENTATION IN POLITICS IS VERY COMMON. WE ALREADY HAVE 8 FEMALE MINISTERS AND HUNDREDS OF FEMALES IN OTHER AREAS OF POLITICS."
17 / Have you ever wanted to give up? What kept you moving on?
Definitely, and trust me, everyone has such moments in life, it’s very normal. I always tell myself nothing is permanent, only death is permanent but everything else is temporary. So, no matter the bad situation I know it will pass and most importantly it will teach me a lesson. My family is a great source of good energy, a good support system is a great catalyst to move on but of
course, not limited to that, it’s up to yourself to get up and get motivated. My passion is to see my counter better and to leave a legacy by improving’s lives.
18 / Is your profession considered a man’s job in Egypt?
In 2022, of course not. Women representation in politics is very common. We already have 8 female ministers and hundreds of females in other areas of politics.
19 / How would you define yourself?
I am not “defined” yet because I am not done. Like any living being, I am consistently growing, evolving. I do believe greatly in continuous self-improvement, we aren’t static. So I am a learner until I die. I am kind, I love my country, my family and friends and I want to create a positive impact for those that I know and love but also for those I don’t know but I love as well, my
20 / What does the word ambition mean to you?
To me it means a desire to succeed at something. An eagerness and drive to achieve your objective, whatever that is. And the 7th sky is my limit
21 / What is your beauty ritual as a political woman today?
My beauty ritual is to be as healthy as possible, inside out. I try to eat healthy and exercise constantly. I am not a big fan of anything artificial, chemicals of
sorts. Beauty shows inside out, from what you eat, what you drink and what you surround yourself with.
"LEARNING IS CONTINUOUS AND IT'S THE ONE SINGLE HABIT THAT CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE FOR THE BEST. "
22 / What advice will you give to women who want to succeed like you in the political world?
I would say “Please unleash your potential!” you must be in it for the right reasons. If you are passionate enough to create a positive impact, if you put in
the effort and have the right mindset and attitude, it will likely happen.
23 / What would you redo again in your course if possible?
I believe that every single event, good or bad, made me who I am today. I would like to re-live my children’s young age, now that they are grown up and going to college, I do miss that part. I wish I could relive the moments for longer, if possible, spend more time with them. We never want our children to grow...
24 / Which sites would you advise readers to travel to during the stay in Egypt?
There are many beautiful sites in Egypt but if I have to pick only two, I would say Luxors Karnak Temple and the Valley of the Kings.
The last word
If I were to give one universally true piece of advice: never stop learning, never stop growing. The best thing you can do is to invest in your education, growth,
and learning. Learning is continuous and it’s the one single habit that can change your life for the best.
“Think only of the best, work for the best, and expect only the best”