The house feels emptier. Duties gradually become less. Kids are suddenly more capable of handling their own lives. Pretty normal. You’ve given your all to prepare them for the moment they start relying on themselves, but haven’t really given much thought to how you’d be after they do.
This is the case for plenty of Egyptian housewives who dedicate their lives to their families and postpone their entry to the job market, only to find it harder to join later. Experiencing this herself, the hardworking, mother-of-two, Abeer El Deif, decided to launch Hawaa (Arabic for Eve) After 40, to support women above forty, and ease their way to the job market.
“I graduated in 1990, and started looking for jobs in 2004, working on myself using courses, moving from company to another. But in 2012, I found companies rejecting me just because of my age. I was shocked,” Abeer says. Despite her eight-year experience with part-time and full-time jobs to meet her family’s needs and commitments, companies would tell her they found someone younger.
“I’d ask them for feedback after the interview. One of the companies was run by youth, and they told me: we won’t know how to deal with your age in the workplace,” Abeer adds. But she was later told that it may be that older age tends to mean a higher salary.
Accordingly, Hawaa After 40 aims to help women who have stayed away from the employment market for a while, or even intend to shift their careers, to return smoothly, through both workshops and connections to different companies. The workshops cater to individual preferences that a woman needs for her intended field such as voice-over and make-up sessions, as well as some more generic workshops about how to stay alert, strengthen the memory, and life coaching.
Abeer classifies women who return to the job market into two types: the ones who need work financially, and the ones who need it psychologically. “We’ll develop her in whichever field, but she has to feel like she’s of importance. Some women suffer psychologically from staying at home. They contact us saying, we want to do anything. We want to feel like anybody needs us,” she adds.
But why the age of forty in specific? Abeer explains that it’s a problematic age for the market. “If she’s a female, they say her personal problems will affect her efficiency. Her psychological well-being is going to affect her as well. She’s old-fashioned, and so on,” she states.
And for excluding men from the organization, Abeer clarifies that men get jobs easier because everyone else helps them, it’s the norm. But rarely does she find those encouraging females as much.
Not only did Hawaa After 40 create a heartwarming community between the women involved, it also made its incredible founder, Abeer, more persistent to continue her journey. “Even when I got sick and had to stay in bed, all that I was thinking about was work and getting back up. I feel like they’re my daughters, even if some of them are older than me. I want them to succeed and reach places,” she adds.
The ladies who have been helped by Hawaa After 40 are also unutterably inspiring! Starting with Shaimaa Ibrahim, mother of three, who found her passion in CV design, “it was my first time to learn about passion and that it can be invested for income and self-fulfillment,” she tells. There was also Amira Antar, who had to retire from her job at the Ministry of Health after a health issue for which she had to undergo surgery. After attending workshops with Hawaa After 40, she went on to start her own import company, “hope returned to me after I thought I was useless,” she says.
Chef Shaimaa Ayman chased her dreams and kicked off her online career after attending Hawaa After 40 workshops as well. She started a page and YouTube channel and found an outlet for her passion for cooking, “it motivated me greatly to have my own career,” she explains. Another fabulous lady who decided to go for her dreams was Dalia Saeed, who learned how to become a Zumba coach, then studied energy and how it affects people, after attending a Hawaa After 40 lecture, “in the future I am looking to use these studies to help others stay fit physically, mentally and spiritually,” she tells.
Then there is Shorouk Ayad, a journalist and online radio personality, who discovered Hawaa After 40 through their advertisement for a voiceover workshop. She immediately sent her voice sample and signed up. She learned a lot, not only about the art of voiceover, but also about her own talent, “my motto is ‘it is never too late,’” she says.
Eng. Manal Mohammed needed, most of all, encouragement to keep going and not lose interest in her passion. Attending a Hawaa After 40 event helped her fight the frustrations that usually held her back. She is now working with more passion and dedication on the spice shop she runs with her son.
Finally, there is Hanaa Shaddad, whose sister called one day as she was heading out from her work at the bank, to invite her to an event by Hawaa After 40. There, she was overwhelmed by the great energy, and ended up searching for her own talents. Thus, she joined a training course in the Egyptian Radio, which resulted in episodes voiced by her to be aired in Ramadan. She is now in the process of learning about acting and theatre, as she started receiving acting offers, “I am with Hawaa After 40. We will all help each other show and use our capabilities and skills for a better tomorrow for us,” she concludes.
The participants are now above 400, and they’re still open for more. Check out their online application through their Instagram and Facebook pages: Hawaa After 40. For those who cannot afford the fees, they have a policy for allowing a ratio for free.