Starting off as a dreamer whose ultimate goal was to know her duties and protect her rights, 33-year-old Sue Ellen is now head of Total Egypt’s legal department and a law professor.
Today this well-established lawyer has decided to help girls who share the same dream, actually achieve it through her initiative “Leeha El Hak” (She has the right) for law education funding. “Years ago, I was giving a lecture to students from Upper Egypt when a girl came and asked me to leave early because she lives in Menya and so she had to catch the train. Later I found out that she came on this 8-hour trip from Menya to Cairo everyday back and forth to attend my lectures. She was the most dedicated and brightest student in my class. It was a turning point for my purpose in life, leading me to focus on helping those females who have financial needs and cultural constraints to achieve their dream of having proper education and be given a real chance by our legal community,” Sue tells.
And so “Leeha Al Hak” came to life, an initiative that shall provide three elected girls with unconventional legal education scholarships that cover the tuition for the English-section of the law school, law related and non-related courses, daily expenses and summer internships at the most prestigious law firms.
Solely funded by Sue without the help of any external sponsors, the initiative is looking for three Egyptian females with high grades in Thanaweya Amma and special financial circumstances. Most importantly the candidates shall have passion to become lawyers which will be shown in their personal statement and through an interview process.
Sue who has gone a long way up is well aware of the challenges that any female can face once she takes on that gown. “When I first graduated, I was extremely optimistic and confident that I would instantly get a job, however I got rejected in so many job vacancies for being “a woman”! Unfortunately, the Egyptian legal community doesn’t fully accept that Egyptian women can be exceptional lawyers with all the required traits and skills,” she argues.
“Women who zealously and aggressively advocate for their clients in court are “obnoxious”; men who do the same are ‘excellent litigators’”
“It’s indisputable that women face professional challenges that men don’t face. If you’re a woman in the legal profession, it’s highly likely that you’ve experienced some form of sexism during the course of your career. For example, women who zealously and aggressively advocate for their clients in court are “obnoxious”; men who do the same are ‘excellent litigators’,” she explains.
“The Egyptian legal community doesn’t fully accept that Egyptian women can be exceptional lawyers with all the required traits and skills”
Even though there has been slight progress in the past 10 years, this fearless attorney believes that women still have a long way to go. “Female lawyers are underestimated by clients as well, especially if they are young. There is this overwhelming stereotype that a successful lawyer must be over with old briefcase, grey hair and glasses,” she says.
“Women can have it all,” says this bright mind while pointing out that being a successful lawyer doesn’t mean a woman can’t be someone’s mother, wife or friend all at the same time. “Any job is demanding and requires effort and dedication. With proper time management, you can do everything in your day,” she wraps up.
Feature Image Credits: Shady Zakaria