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“I’m proud of each step, mistake, and opportunity passed by. It all built up to my experience” – Marwa Hussein [Interview]

Article-“I’m proud of each step, mistake, and opportunity passed by. It all built up to my experience” – Marwa Hussein [Interview]

© Fi Global Insights Women in Food Interview with Marwa Hussein
Marwa Hussein is director for agriculture and natural resources at the non-profit, CARE International, where she works to support women farmers in Egypt.

Prior to this, she worked in many diverse sectors from IT, e-commerce, business relations, government relations and international trade development.

As a trade and agriculture consultant for the Australian, British, and Dutch governments, her responsibilities included planning and supervising bilateral cooperation projects; conducting market research; evaluating policy changes and dealing with trade barriers; and organising trade visits.

Working in multicultural environment has enriched my skills and knowledge,” she says.

You have extensive experience as an international trade advisor, working with the Australian, UK, and Dutch embassies in Cairo for years. What made you want to pivot and work for the non-profit organisation, CARE?

“I changed my career speciality more than once. From an accountant to an IT specialist to international trade and then to agriculture.

“I enjoy learning more and gaining more skills in addition to the joy of working with and supporting female farmers in Egypt. With the embassies, I was the donor then I took the direct implementor role which is more exhausting but much more rewarding, watching the direct results of your work on ground!

“I joined CARE in 2019 to support the organisation’s growing agriculture development portfolio where I found my passion in working with small farmers – especially females – and allowing them to have equal opportunity as big farms in the market. The agriculture and natural resources team [at CARE] serves small farmers and people working in agriculture in multiple governorates and [helps them] apply climate smart agriculture techniques in all executed projects.”

CARE works to fight poverty and achieve social justice by empowering women and girls. Is this important in the context of the agri-food industry?

“Yes, for sure! Providing the way to sustainable income for small female farmers is a key to success.

“There is a huge number of women and girls in the agriculture sector of Egypt, representing 40% of the daily workers in the fields. We teach them how to save together through our Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) programme and also train them on smart agriculture techniques. They managed to exceed our expectations and [we] had several success stories with female potato farmers in Benni Suif and tomato farmers in Luxor.”

What advice do you have for the food industry – suppliers, producers, manufacturers, and retailers – to make the sector more inclusive for women?

“Most women in the agriculture sector work for less wages than men or even for free on their families’ land. They also might not have full control over their lands when it comes to agriculture decisions. Many females were waiting for the opportunity we provide though our projects to blossom and succeed.

“I really wish we can provide the same opportunities to all female farmers in Egypt and allow them to grow and compete in the local and international market.”

In your career, have you ever felt yourself come up against a glass ceiling because you are a woman?

“For sure, maybe not as an accountant but for sure in IT and agriculture where women don’t represent a big percentage of the sector. But it was never a stopper. Actually, when you succeed despite the challenges, the success is bigger and more recognisable!”

What do you feel has been your biggest professional achievement to date?

“My success in my current job as the first female to be agriculture director at CARE Egypt. [It is] very rewarding to be successful and also get the satisfaction of helping others and making a real difference on ground!”

Sometimes the biggest learnings come from our mistakes. Is there anything you wish you had done differently in your career?

“No one is too old to learn! And we really must learn from others’ mistakes because no one has the time to repeat them all. Maybe it took me some time before changing my career but eventually I did it and [am] proud of each step, mistake, and opportunity passed by. It all built up to my experience.”