Entrepreneurs in Egypt: Hayam Essam

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 In News

Young entrepreneurs in Egypt are part of a new wave of self-employment sweeping the nation, and Mostafa Shahat writes about them.


Sport enriches and develops youth’s lives, and it’s a tool for development, social change and gender equality, too. Unfortunately, underprivileged girls in marginalised areas in Egypt don’t have access to sports due to a lack of programmes in schools and youth centres. Moreover, there are cultural and social barriers that prevent girls from playing sports.

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Hayam Essam was a professional basketball player for twenty years and used to play for the Egyptian National Team. She graduated from the Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University in 2003 with a Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, and she worked as a civil engineer for ten years in a multinational company.

In 2013, she participated in the Global Sports Mentoring Programme, administered by the University of Tennessee’s Center for sport, peace and society, an exchange programme sponsored by ESPN and the US Department of State as part of an effort to empower women and girls all over the world through sports.

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After the programme, Hayam founded ‘Girl Power’, an initiative that uses sport to empower underprivileged girls and teach them life and social skills to change their lives.

‘We are creating a safe and supervised space where girls can acquire life and social skills, learn ethics and values, make friends and have fun through playing basketball’, says Hayam.

The initiative has partnered with two foundations Educate Me and Nebny to reach two marginalized areas in Cairo, Talbeya and Mansheyet Nasser, where girls have no access to sports, so they are offered the opportunity to join a basketball programme.

‘It’s not only about girls participating in sports training, but about teaching them some healthy habits as well’, says Hayam.

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Girl Power offers three different levels of basketball programmes: beginner, intermediate and expert. Each level consists of sixteen sessions, and practice is once or twice a week. Each programme includes fifteen girls and each session is run by three volunteers who are former or current basketball players.

‘Basketball players act as role models for the girls, and we sometimes take the girls to watch a real basketball match’, says Hayam.

Hayam was selected to attend the first Arab Social Innovation Forum in Jordan in 2015 hosted by the UNDP, and she was selected for a one-year leadership fellowship by Vital Voices . She also worked as a project manager in the CSR department of Microsoft Egypt, where she was managing a mentorship programme for female university students, matching them with experienced female mentors in different fields who provide career coaching and guidance. Hayam is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Development Studies at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.

In addition to ‘Girl Power’, Hayam also founded ‘MINDala’, an online business specialising in designing and selling adult coloring books for stress relief. Hayam hand draws the designs herself, and she manages all aspects of the business.

She was inspired by the ‘Mandala Art’ she saw when she visited an art center in Nepal, and she was very impressed by the artists, their incredible designs and how this form of art is used as a means of meditation.


Article submitted by Mostafa Shahat, the volunteer responsible for Arabic guest bloggers in the MENA region and an entrepreneur who has established one of the most successful youth communities in Egypt, Goal Oriented Learners. Mostafa studied social entrepreneurship in USA and is currently the Middle East & North Africa representative at StudySearch (Nigeria) and the Egypt representative for All Events in City (India). Mostafa is also a reporter at Nudge Sustainability Hub. Email him at [email protected] and check out his other blog A Syrian’s Success in Egypt and more from his Entrepreneurs in Egypt series.


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