SAT-7 Egypt Information Officer Mary Joseph introduces two Egyptian women whose life-changing community work has earnt them Nobel Peace Prize nominations
The theme of the 2015 International Women’s Day is “Make It Happen” and that’s what two Egyptian women did and are still doing through their constant service to Egyptian society.
Their perseverance throughout the obstacles they faced and their faith in God paved their paths to make a mark on the Egyptian society and reach international acclaim, becoming nominated for one the most prestigious awards, the Nobel Peace Prize.
They are Nada Alfy Thabet, Founder of Village of Hope for Development and Rehabilitation of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities, and Mama Maggie Gobran, Founder of Stephen’s Children.
Thabet, used the one major obstacle in her life and turned it into an opportunity for the needy. In her booklet Village of Hope, she recalls the pain she felt after she gave birth to a son, Maged, who was mute and couldn’t move and she couldn’t see how she would cope with this challenge. She even questioned her faith and her relationship with God. She said,“The monologue with God began: How can You allow this? Would God give a gift that was incomplete? Why, God, why? Why can’t You hear the scream in my heart?”
It was a challenge Thabet only accepted after a struggle. But her love for Maged stayed with her. She saw hope in his tiny movements and that motivated her to begin continuous and rigorous care and training for him throughout the years.
Today, Thabet reaps the fruits of her effort seeing Maged at the age of 35 as part of the team of trainers in the Village of Hope, functioning and helping other mentally challenged kids as well.
The Village of Hope
From an empty plot of land designed for a weekend getaway in Borg-AlArab, Alexandria, to a full functioning place with a bakery, a modest potato plantation with a cow, a crafts centre, children’s accommodation and classrooms for learning, Thabet built the Village of Hope. From its initial intake of six cases, the village now caters for 50 children with special needs.
Thabet was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 by the 1000peacewomen organisation in recognition of her contribution to society.
“My advice for women who want to make a positive impact on society is to raise a good generation and teach them the core values that will make them successful in their careers and their personal lives and become active participants in society.” Thabet says.
Thabet’s role model is Maggie Gobran, “She taught me many good things like humility, love, and serving society.” Thabet says. “Without the presence and support of my husband,” she adds, “I wouldn’t have been able to promote my work and serve society.”
Nicknamed Mother Theresa of Cairo, Maggie Gobran sacrificed a career in teaching Computer Science at both Cairo University and the American University in Cairo to become a nun. Coming from a privileged family, Gobran felt she had received a call from God to care for the needy.
Gobran was touched when she first came into contact with the needy in the Cairo district of garbage collectors at the age of 35. At that time, Gobran had a family with two kids. Yet seeing how these people made their homes and living on the dump she realized God was calling her to dedicate her life to providing for them through basic humanitarian assistance, vocational training and education.
Gobran set up the Stephen’s Children organisation, giving it the name of the first martyr of Egypt. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012.
Stephen’s Children is a non-governmental Christian ministry that – according to their website – aims to nurture, train, and equip underprivileged children and young people morally, educationally, and spiritually. After almost two decades, Stephen’s Children serves around 30,000 families in the garbage slum area in Cairo.
The history of International Women’s Day
The battle women started for recognition began in the early years of the twentieth century with protests for women’s political and workplace rights in countries like the United States and Russia, until the United Nations finally designated 1975 as ‘International Women’s Year’ and decided on 8 March to celebrate International Women’s Day across the world.”
According to the International Women’s Day website, “For many years the United Nations has held an annual IWD conference to coordinate international efforts for women’s rights and participation in social, political and economic processes.”
For both Nada Thabet and Maggie Gobran, God’s love is what kindled the force to enable them to give happiness to so many others. Their love for the needy has made it happen.