She is confident, talented and chic! Rahma Khaled makes her family extremely proud. We were lucky to talk to Egypt’s Special Olympics swimming champion and spokesperson who happens to have Down Syndrome. She has a fulltime job in Coca Cola Atlantic in the Public African Communication division. The 18 year old girl stole the hearts of Egyptians with her sharp wit and beautiful smile.
Rahma first learned about her passion for swimming when she was a child, “I kept going to swim alone, and dad would run after me and take me out of the water”, Rahma tells, “so mom took me to swimming classes”.
“people shouldn’t be shocked. If they think I’m doing well, they should try to be like me” Rahma
For an 18 year old, Rahma’s accomplishments are extremely impressive, “people shouldn’t be shocked. If they think I’m doing well, they should try to be like me”, Rahma says, “I want to become an actress, and I feel like becoming an actress and having photo shoots can change people’s misconceptions”. Being on the receiving end of lots of stereotyping, Rahma knows exactly what kind of misconceptions she wants to eradicate, “two words need to be erased from our vocabulary: disabled and retarded”, Rahma tells.
Rahma has a huge passion for pop culture. Her family has been her support system through everything. And when they learned that she was interested in acting, they continued to support her, “my family encourages me. When mom found out I wanted to become an actress she told me I should train more”, Rahma tells. This parental encouragement, Rahma believe is vital for all children, “parents should discover what their children are good at, and encourage and sculpt their talents”, Rahma says, “some kids have plenty of potential, but their parents are too scared”. As for the future, Rahma has grand plans to cross the English Channel. It’s hard to imagine her parents are not worried about her, “not at all. Mom and dad encourage me. That’s why I train every morning and afternoon”, Rahma confirms.
With all of this, it’s hard to believe she has time to think about anything else, such as romance. Still, Rahma wants to be married one day, “I want to, but dad doesn’t want me to get married”, Rahma explains, “but I’m certain he will be happy when he sees me as a bride, in a white dress”.
“when someone is trying to get into a hospital, they shouldn’t be asked for their ID and if they don’t have it, be left to die outside” Rahma
Rahma is in touch with the current news and feels strongly about certain causes, “the biggest problems are that there isn’t enough attention being paid to health care and the environment”, Rahma says, “when someone is trying to get into a hospital, they shouldn’t be asked for their ID and if they don’t have it, be left to die outside”, she concludes.
Rahma’s compassion, intelligence, talent and love for life were overwhelming. This is not only due to her innate talent, but also because of all the effort her mother has put into raising her. It was interesting watching their dynamic. During our cover shoot, Mrs. Amal El Otaif, Rahma’s mum who happens to be a speech therapist, let her daughter make her own decisions on her own, and when she interfered, it was only to offer advice. She spoke fondly, and proudly, of her other children, but this was Rahma’s day, and Mrs. Amal bragged about her daughter’s accomplishments. We sat down to talk to her some more.
“I was asked ‘why are you investing in Rahma? What’s the point?’ but now that she has graduated from a normal school, became a champion in swimming and tennis, and become the spokesperson for the challenged in Egypt, things changed a little” Mrs. Amal
Mrs. Amal remembers a time when she was discouraged, “I was asked ‘why are you investing in Rahma? What’s the point?’ but now that she has graduated from a normal school, became a champion in swimming and tennis, and become the spokesperson for the challenged in Egypt, things changed a little”, Mrs. Amal tells.
It’s difficult to pinpoint where we should start in order to make things better, but Mrs. Amal knows what it all comes down to, “if a challenged person gets treated normally and gets their rights at home, they will get their rights everywhere else”, she tells, “things need to be facilitated. We live in a society that challenges those who don’t have challenges”.
According to her, it all starts at home, and a huge responsibility falls upon the parents, “some treat their children as if they’re sick, and end up spoiling them”, she explains. This goes to show how lucky Rahma was, being born to a mother who has so much awareness, “my situation was a little different because I was already in the field”, Mrs. Amal tells, “I’m a speech therapist. So when Rahma was born, I was a little shocked at first, but I knew what I should do”.
Two days ago, on April 29th 2016, Rahma received two gold medals, winning the Egyptian swimming championship. This qualifies her to compete in the world championship in Italy!
Photography by Hatem Saleh- Photographer. Hair by Kriss Beauty Salon. Makeup by Diana Richy, The Make-up Engineer. Dress by Malak El Ezzawy.