Interview: Egypt's 1st female governor proud of women's rising role
by Mahmoud Fouly
CAIRO, March 2 (Xinhua) -- Egypt's recently-appointed first female governor vowed on Thursday to meet the aspirations and expectations of her people in an exclusive interview with Xinhua, and expressed mixed feeling of responsibility and joy to have the honor of being the first female governor in Egypt and the Arab world.
Nadia Abdou, or the "Iron Woman," has been appointed earlier in February as the new governor of Beheira province, about 130 km north of the capital Cairo, after serving as deputy governor over the past three years. She sees the move as a step forward for greater women's participation in the country's political leadership.
"Women's participation in Egypt has become fairly acceptable, as an Egyptian woman has become a minister, an ambassador, a judge, a mayoress and finally a governor. Egyptian women are also highly represented in the parliament," said the governor.
"Women constitute half the society and affect the other half, and they have greater awareness of the size of the problems facing the society," Abdou told Xinhua, hoping for further female political and social participation in the near future.
She continued that her major challenge after taking office is to provide all necessary care and attention to women and children in order to prepare a generation that is able to endure the burdens and responsibilities of the future.
Her first decision as a governor was to assign some of her tasks to mayors, district chiefs and heads of service institutions "to ensure the principle of decentralization and to carry out the citizens' relevant interests faster and more efficiently."
Beheira's new governor was born in the 1940s and she was graduated in Alexandria University, department of chemical engineering, in 1968.
She was referred to as the "Iron Woman" due to her diligence and persistence facing work challenges in a male-dominant society and her strict leadership with abidance to the law to fulfill work duties based on her belief that "there is no time to waste in bureaucracy."
Abdou served as chairwoman of a state-run water supply company in Alexandria for a decade and she is a member of the France-based General Assembly of the World Water Council (WWC) and the Jordan-based Arab Countries Water Utilities Association (ACWUA). Hence, the lady governor has ambitious plans to carry out a national project to solve Beheira's water problems as one of her priorities.
"There is a lot of hard work to do to finish ongoing service projects, particularly those in the fields of drinking water and sanitation, besides the establishment of schools, hospitals and industrial and investment regions in Beheira province," the governor pointed out.
As for attracting local and foreign investments, Abdou said she is working on a number of mega projects that would contribute to enhancing development, providing job opportunities and increasing the national income.
"We have several promising industrial zones in Beheira such as those of the districts of Housh Eissa, Wady al-Natroun, Rosetta and Edko where large investments have been pumped to provide them with services and infrastructures to attract local and foreign investments," she said.
With regards to cooperation with China, the governor said that it has flourished over the past few years, particularly after the upgrade of the two countries' bilateral relations to the level of comprehensive strategic partnership.
"Beheira province, with the partnership of Egyptian state-run Al-Ahram Foundation, has activated this cooperation by signing a protocol of cooperation with a large Chinese firm to establish the largest paper factory in the Middle East region by using rice straw," Abdou illustrated.
The governor detailed that the paper factory is planned to be established in the industrial zone of Rosetta city on a 128-acre area of land with an estimate investment of 1.25 billion Egyptian pounds (about 77 million U.S. dollars).
"This paper factory to be established in cooperation with China is expected to provide some 350 direct and more than 1,000 indirect job opportunities, and it will save Egypt about one billion dollars that were annually used for paper imports," the governor said.
Abdou added that another Chinese investor in the field of fodder industry has already received the land for the establishment of his project at Housh Eissa's industrial area, noting the factory is currently under construction and it will start production in a few months. Enditem
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