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News Letter

Fatma Rezk

I chose the name Country Girl for my company because I AM a country girl, I was born in the countryside in Egypt.


My Parents are simple village people. My mom never got to learn how to read and write, even though she was sent to a school, she was not allowed to even look at the teachers. See, there is a law in Egypt that if you don't send your children to school, you have to pay a fine to the government, so my grandfather didn't want to pay a fine, so he sent her to school but told her: "If you ever speak up in a classroom, I'll cut your head off". That is the reality many women face in the Middle East. It's just not easy for women in general, most women, especially on the country side don't have even basic education, they don't even have ID's. So basically you don't count, you don't exist.


And since I was a little girl, all my mom dreamed about was for me to get an education and get out of the village and make a better life for myself.
"But I love the village" I would tell my mom and she'd answer me: "Then do something to change the ways of living here, but if you can't, then leave!"
So, all throughout the high school years I couldn't decide what I wanted to do, or what I could do to change the way things were around me for myself and people around me, because women there don't even know that they have a choice. I thought about choosing law school but how much can one person do after all. Then I thought if these women had a chance to work, to make their own living and not depend on anybody, then they would realize that they actually do have a choice.


So, I chose to study Economy and Management, because I knew one day I would start my own business.


Not just the business because there are so many things you can do with machinery, I wanted to employ women and give the them most important thing in life, which is freedom to choose the life they want to live.


Even though unlike my mother I got the chance to study, when I finished collage, my father gave me an ultimatum: "Either get married or I denounce as my daughter", I packed up my things and left the house, I went to Cairo trying to make living and pay for my sisters' education at the same time, and plus I was doing research and learning leather craft.


I stayed in Cairo for 8 years, worked at the Medical Company's import/export division from 9am-4pm. Then from 6pm-7pm I was working as the typewriter at lawyer's office. Then from 8pm-11pm taking leather craft workshop.

 

The reason I chose leather after doing a research was that natural leather was always in demand in high fashion. And the fact that production involves human resources was also a big factor, yes, we use machines for stitches but most of the job is done by hand.

 

So, when I felt I was ready, I went back to the village, rented a small place and started from a little corner. I was collecting leather trims and making little wallets, souvenirs, eventually I bought a few sawing machines, taught my sister and a few other village women the skills and that's how it all started, soon we had a four story building factory and workshop for women, where over 100 women were learning the craft.  But to employ women and help them earn money was not my only goal, I also wanted them to learn to read and write at least their own names. It's incredible how these women transformed.


But what I'm really proud of is that I made sure 500 women finally got their IDs made. Learn how to write their names, started to realize that they are capable of thinking and looking after themselves because most of these women are treated as a property first by their fathers and then by their husbands.


Now our main factory is in 10th of Ramadan city, one of the industrial centers of Egypt