Rehab Mazhar: A Girl of the South

Born and raised in Aswan, Rehab Mazhar is a force to be reckoned with. At only 23 years of age, she’s made so much of herself. She’s already made the move from Aswan to Cairo to study Business Administration at THREE universities simultaneously (Ain Shams University, Kean University, and Ocean County College). Rehab Mazhar has now graduated and is now working at Money Fellows and doing what she loves most. 

Where It Started…

About this experience, she says, “I had just learned what scholarships were. I was planning to study Business in Aswan but then I found out Ain Shams was offering a scholarship. I applied and got it! Afterward, it turned out Ain Shams University’s credit hours section had a joint program with both Kean University and Ocean County College. What happens is that you study for four almost-consecutive years and get three separate degrees from the three universities.”

Making Change

People surely have built preconceived notions about girls from Upper Egypt. Due to the strict traditions of people of the Egyptian South and the deep-seated patriarchy in our society, most people think Upper Egyptian women are completely oppressed and unable to pursue their educations or careers. However, we aim to change this perception of Upper Egyptian Girls. 

“Whenever anyone finds out I’m from Aswan I’m bombarded with questions. ‘How are your parents okay with this?’ ‘How are you so independent?’ ‘Oh, you’re doing this whole college thing?’ and so on,” Rehab says. 

Rehab talks more about her childhood. She says she’s never been an over-achiever when it came to academics. She was above average, yes, but she also gave a lot of her time to extra-curricular activities. From student activities to youth leadership camps to so many other character-building activities; Rehab did it all. She got to travel, build friendships, and gain a plethora of experiences.

Support & Perseverance

When it came to how Rehab’s community reacted to her, she says it was surely a challenge.

“Tradition is an incredibly important thing in Aswan, but it all depends on your family. My parents are my biggest motivators. Their faith in me ever since the beginning of my educational journey is my strongest driving force. They always encouraged me to be independent and learn more about myself,” she says.

This, Rehab explains, is how she was able to go on. There were times when she thought she could not do it anymore but her parents’ faith in her pushed her through. Her resilience and subsequent success as well as her family’s support eventually managed to change her community’s point of view regarding her work and lifestyle.

“People back home finally began to understand the point of what I was doing and respect my right to a proper education,” Rehab states.

Future Plans

Rehab has recently graduated, and when we asked her whether or not she planned to pursue further studies she confirmed she was. 

“I definitely plan to work on my MBA both in Egypt and abroad. That’s in addition to working part-time to gain real-life experience to prepare for my dream project. I plan to open up a center in Aswan that specializes in student aids and scholarships. It’ll teach students all about scholarship programs and how to apply. I even dream to have joint programs with universities abroad and have Upper Egyptian students apply for scholarships through us for more opportunities. Not only will this encourage students, but also their parents, as it will lift a huge part of the financial burden off of them,” she says of her future plans.

As for changing the way Girls of the South are often perceived, Rehab says that the only way to do that is by educating the girls themselves. Teaching the girls their value, their rights, and the validity of their ambition; that’s how people will see them differently.

It’s not about an image that we need to change. So many of these Upper Egyptian Girls have big dreams and ambition and an eagerness to learn. What we should do is give them a chance. Validate them. We can do this by hosting panels, holding forums, and talking to communities about the importance of educating their youth; especially girls,” Rehab concludes.

As we said, Rehab is a force to be reckoned with. We truly cannot wait to see what this Girl of the South has in store for –not only her community—but this whole country. The future seems so bright with girls like her in it. 

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