Breathing new life into the world of entrepreneurship and sustainability is Sally Bahgat. She is the founder of the Oasis Community Center, a green space nestled in the outskirts of Cairo where students from about 50 schools across the city come and learn all about sustainability. Today, along with the community center, Bahgat also directed her attention to training girls and women on sustainability through her second company, Nebty and that is where our conversation took off.
A Dive Into The All-Female Nebty
Partnering with Rehab, a specialist in renewable energy, Bahgat created Nebty. Unlike the Oasis Community Center that is catered to kids, this is a company that specializes in training women and girls on everything related to sustainability. There is a special vision behind Nebty which Bahgat described to us in a couple of words, “we have this innate belief that if you train any woman or girl, it means you trained the whole house. They are capable of transferring information to the whole house because they have an influence and can influence a community.”
That belief and mindset is the driving force behind Nebty and is why whenever Nebty enters a community, it always looks for the girls and women first. They then get trained and from there, they return to their community with newfound knowledge and a base of skills related to sustainability. To give us a better idea of the inner workings of the company, Bahgat introduced us to one of Nebty’s biggest projects called “Bee Nebty”.
“The name says it all, Bee Nebty is a project all about raising awareness and teaching young girls on the importance and benefits of making use of beehives and their by-products like beeswax to create everything from cosmetic products to candles” explained Bahgat.
The way the project operates is by having Bahgat and her team travel to a specific governate and conduct workshops all about bees. Bee Nebty’s journey began in Alexandria where the first ever workshop was held. Young college girls got to learn about why bees are important as well as what they can do with beeswax. They also learnt how to turn beeswax and other bee by-products into cool products like candles. Along with that, they got introduced to a slowly evolving type of tourism known as apitourism.
A Look Into Apitourism & Egypt’s First Bee Festival
Around the world, there is a new type of eco-tourism devoted to bees where people come and look at bee hives and work with their hands and use beeswax to make cosmetics and candles. That day can also include activities like getting massaged with honey. It is basically a day where tourists spend time with nature in an ecological environment.
Speaking of Apitourism, Bahgat also mentioned how across the globe, there are special events dedicated to bees known as bee festivals. They are held to celebrate and bring into awareness the importance of bees. “We noticed these festivals around us at places like Cyprus. They take place once a year in the month of March and are hosted by the UN. We knew that we had to have our own version in Cairo” said Bahgat.
Taking place on August 5th was Egypt’s first ever bee festival. Bahgat described the day as one packed with music, where people created products using beeswax and sold different types of honey. They came from places like Alexandria and many of them included the Alexandrian college girls that were from the workshop. All the products they created from the workshop were presented and sold in the festival which was held at the Oasis Community Center. Our curiosity was peaked so we asked Bahgat to tell us more about the famous center where she took her first dive into the world of sustainability many years ago.
Getting To Know The Oasis Community Center
“It all started back when I was 40 years old, married with 2 kids and seeking to create something that will have a big impact. At that time, I used to take my two sons and their friends to our farm called the Oasis. Back then, it was merely a villa with 4 rooms nestled in the outskirts of Cairo. We’d go there and they would plant, recycle and play.”
Smiling while recalling those early days, Bahgat described how special it was having the boys see the plants grow and how it made them and their friends very happy. Parents started to notice that their kids enjoyed the process and that is when they sent back their kids to Oasis. Through word of mouth, more parents and their kids came to the farm and that was how everything started.
“From there, I launched the 1001 tree initiative where any visitor who comes to Oasis has to plant a tree. Every tree at Oasis was planted by a person, institute, university, day care center or school that dropped us a visit.” The center only grew from there especially when Bahgat began inviting students to the Oasis on special days aptly called Green Days. “Green days are when students from schools around Cairo come to the Oasis and learn everything there is to know about sustainability” described Bahgat.
The day starts off with students gathering around the first tree that was planted in the Oasis center. There they get to learn the story behind the Oasis. From there, they teach the kids about renewable energy as they are certified renewable energy trainers from Germany. Rehab, Bahgat’s partner, has a background in theater and is a storyteller so she’d wear a blue dress and blue wig, tell the kids she’s an alien and that her planet got destroyed and from there she’d talk about renewable energy, she made the whole thing fun. The entire experience is tailored to kids aged 3 to 12.
Along with the mini theater performance, kids also get to watch how the solar cells are set up. To make the experience more interactive, they even have a solar oven which the kids can use to heat up marshmallows. To keep it simple, the main idea behind Green Day is to “show” rather than “tell” kids about the world of sustainability. Knowing that the center was open for many years, we were curious about its impact on each of the kids that visited the Oasis during those early days.
The impact was quite big as today, the center has its very own paid interns who come to work and promote sustainability. Funnily enough, those very interns were the very same kids who attended green days with their school many years back.
“To this day, they still remember the center, the tree they planted and the school trip which means that the center knew how to sow the seeds of sustainability into the hearts of those kids. That to me is a success. The fact that they wanted to come back is a big thing. These interns were like a gift. I felt like I was really making an impact.”
What’s Next For Bahgat?
When it comes to the center, in 5 years, she believes that it can become the Mcdonalds or Pepsi of sustainability, “I want to make a franchise of the Oasis Community Center and for there to be a branch of it worldwide.”
The same goes for Nebty. Her aim is to train women in all the governates of Egypt about sustainability and how to create sustainable products. Once they gain that knowledge and the skills needed to create these products, they can then be the ones to continue on the work in their governate, train other women and become specialized in the craft. Large companies and institutes can then hire the women and propel the realm of sustainable products in Egypt.
Closing off our insightful conversation, Bahgat had a few final words for the readers:
“Egypt needs to have everyone contributing something even if it is small. If each business and individual contributes something to a community, that is how we will rise and grow. I am talking about our women, we are powerful and we can do this. We just need to start and take that first step.”