Nadia Abdo, first Egyptian female governor - File Photo
CAIRO – 27 November 2017: In February 2017, Egypt got its first-ever female governor; Nadia Abdo, the governor of Beheira, and feminists around the country rejoiced. “I was a bit afraid in my first two weeks in office because of that fact,” Abdo tells Egypt Today, commenting on being the first woman to assume that post. “I worship God, I admire Egypt and work, then comes my family and children. That is the hierarchy of my priorities.”
Abdo has a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and a master’s degree in environmental health from the University of Alexandria. After serving four years as deputy governor, the promotion came as a result of hard work, and increasing trust and appreciation from people. But this wasn’t Abdo’s first time pioneering her field; she was selected as the first-ever female chairperson of the Alexandria Holding Company for Drinking Water and Sanitation, a position she held for 10 years since 2002.
“I was working almost 24/7. I used to work while raising my two sons when my husband was at war ahead of the October 6, 1973 victory,” Abdo recounts with bright eyes and a calm smile. “In parallel, I was also learning French to help them with their study at school.”
A dedicated wife and mother, Abdo says her family is supportive of her career and new position, but she realizes something has got to give with such a post. “My husband is very loyal to the country, to me, and to our children. He supported me very much,” Abdo says, adding that it has her social life that has been impacted the most since she’s been in the post.
The Beheira governor views training as the most important element women need to be empowered, especially in the networking aspect which may help many Egyptian women benefit from the experiences and opportunities of Arab and Gulf countries in their respective fields. She emphasizes the need for a database for women of various skills and qualifications to optimize opportunities for investments and sponsorships. “At one innovations exposition, I found a female engineer who designed an industrial machine that beats imported ones. I found another who built a machine that transforms animal waste into energy,” the governor says. “Women are stronger and more perseverant than men.”
Task driven, time efficient and proactive
A strong and perseverant woman herself who likes to get the job done, Abdo ensures efficient and quick problem-solving in her position, and six months into her appointment, she has already gotten various initiatives off the ground. Recently, she recounts installing a generator for a Chinese factory that was awaiting electricity to start operation. This, Abdo recounts, meant securing around would have otherwise had to wait until the factory went through a long process needed to introduce electricity.
Her actions stem from a strong belief in the necessity of boosting and encouraging investments. Toward that goal, she issued an order to hold Investment Committee meetings at the governorate every 10 days instead of every two months, to ensure a faster paperwork process.
The most significant project under execution is turning Rashid city (Rosetta) into an international tourist destination. Abdo explains that the governorate will work on improving the beach area where the Nile river meets the Mediterranean sea, an area that has significant historical and geographical value. Nearby, the Battle of Aboukir Bay took place, between the French and British navies in 1798, the governor adds.
Abdo also established a pharmacy that provides patients of public hospitals with free medicine as shortages have occurred several times in such health institutions. By doing so, she allocated one place to be under the direct supervision of the governorate authorities and ensure efficiency. In similar efforts to better the status of healthcare in the governorate, she established a department and an intensive care unit for children in each public hospital, in parallel to improving the state of hospitals, which has already been achieved, Abdo explains. There are further plans to build two hospitals; one specialized in cancer treatment and another in burn injuries.
One of the practical solutions to unemployment in Beheira that Abdo implemented is establishing a craft/residential area with 120 workshops, with upper floors of each workshop functioning as warehouses, as well as 10 residential buildings for craftsmen to live in.
Among the chronic problems in governorates across the country is price hikes; in response to which Abdo opened outlets directly supervised by the governorate to sell fruits and vegetables at four times less than the market prices. She also established an entity responsible for granting certificates to produce exporters whose products meet international standards. The Beheira governor also revived a project of poultry farming targeting the distribution of 1 million chickens a year and taking place on 40 feddans. The farm sells 200 chickens daily to consumers at lower prices than the market’s.
Abdo has been working on planning industrial zones, especially in Housh Eissa, the Badko logistics port, a paper pulp factory in Rosetta, a solar energy project, Rosetta University, a logistics area in Damanhour and recycling factories, as well as developing slum areas and restoring state lands. Abdo explains that current paper pulp factories have been shut down for using outdated pollutant technologies, and that the new one will be built and operated using ultrasonic technology. She adds that the solar project is led by female engineers with brilliant ideas and a great passion.
Governor Abdo concludes that the crucial characteristics for anyone holding a leading position such as hers are bravery, good time management, ability to communicate with people from different backgrounds and a full knowledge of laws.
Fighting gender based violence and discrimination can take many forms, including highlighting and documenting female role models who challenged stereotypical gender roles. Doing this normalizes women’s presence in sectors recognized as “male only fields” and betters perceptions of successful female entrepreneurs.
This article is part of Egypt Today’s campaign “Break the Silence ... Say No to Violence” marking the 16-Day campaign of activism against gender-based violence GBV from November 25 to December 10.