Fatma Said Ibrahim

GCU Magnusson Award winner 2015
MSc Social Business and Microfinance 2015
PhD student in the Yunus Centre for Business and Health

fatma 680

"I chose my Masters degree at GCU because I read about microfinance as a way to empower poor women in poor countries. It empowers them economically then it helps them gain control over their lives."

Fatma originally graduated with a degree in Archaeology from the University of Cairo. She worked in the tourism sector after graduation, but always knew that social justice and women’s empowerment was her true passion. She got involved with other activities and feminist and human rights movements and knew that she wanted to do things to help women in developing countries, especially her home country, Egypt. She was awarded a scholarship to study at GCU in Glasgow, and began her Masters in 2014. 

“I love GCU. I feel like GCU is my home because I’ve never been out of my country. When I came here, this was the very first home I had, in the GCU student accommodation, and I’ve just been here since then. It’s crazy how time passes so fast. I love GCU and I love how I’m supported here. I always feel supported and everybody is so great. Everyone in the office in the Yunus Centre is so supportive and GCU Foundation - the people there are just amazing and the principal’s office - everyone is just amazing.” 

She was awarded a Magnusson Award in 2015, allowing her to travel back to Egypt to work with a support group, Girls Revolution, which began right after the Egyptian Revolution. The group teach women and girls about their rights in Egyptian society, how to follow their dreams and how to understand themselves. In such a conservative society, women have a lack of rights. 

“This is why I applied for the Magnusson award, I wanted to go back and do something with Girls Revolution on land, to get women together in one place, talk to them, and talk about our experiences. I wanted to tell them what I’d learned here in Glasgow, I’ve seen how in a different community women are way ahead and how women can actually gain their rights. I know over here there are a lot of women rights to be gained, but it’s way ahead than Egypt. I wanted to share my experience and the way that people campaign and raise awareness. I wanted to hear from them and for them to hear from other women as well. Women from different backgrounds got involved - it was amazing. I couldn’t have done it without the money from the Magnusson awards.”

After graduation, Fatma joined the Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health at GCU, initially as a Research Assistant, and progressing to a PhD. Her PhD project looks at the impact of microcredit on the empowerment of low income immigrant and refugee women in the UK. Her research focuses on three main areas; impact on financial capability, intra-household bargaining power and health and well-being.

“That has helped me a lot, I haven’t been involved with education at such a high level before and I’ve learnt to read and write in a different language, I learnt about research methods and how to conduct research and so on. This has helped me as a research assistant, but also it did help me in the other side which I’m really passionate about which is social change. So I learnt that if you want to do something for society you need to look at what is missing and what people need and you create something to address their needs.” 

Fatma has also created an organisation which hopes to help educate women on sexual matters in Egypt. 

“Most women in Egypt suffer from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and they have problems with their sexual life and speaking about sex is taboo. Many women don’t understand their bodies and women’s pleasure, what is consent, sexual orientation and things like that. There are a lot of questions asked in feminist organisations which are basic, we all need to know that. You need to know your own body before anything so I started this club and we just have some female doctors and female researchers in gender and sexualities. We created a safe platform for women to engage and speak about their sex life and ask questions if they have any. Also, if women have any sort of sexual disease in Egypt, they don’t go to the doctors because it is a big taboo. So a lot of people are spreading HIV and things like that. So we are trying to provide such help for them like medical support or tests or anything they can do at home to know what’s going on. Also unplanned pregnancy because there is no abortion because it’s illegal in Egypt so there is lots of things that we try to provide for them, just advice, just help - knowing there is a safe place they can go.”

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