“We are simple people who trust in God”. With this simple, devout phrase, Sherine Wasif introduced herself to us.
Sherine, 30 years old, have three kids, the eldest of whom has recently got his commerce diploma.
She married 25 years ago and lives with her husband in Tatalia village in Assiut governorate.
Plenty of Upper Egyptians express their sheer poverty as “simplicity” in place of “poverty”.
They feel rich within themselves, despite their modest conditions, to the extent of poverty sometimes.
However, Sherine wasn’t pitch poor, for she managed to save an amount of about three thousand pounds from selling her poultry and abundant eggs.
Sherine has been saving money for herself, her husband and her children all along.
Her husband is a simple farmer and when the cultivation season is over, he goes to work with any craftsman as an apprentice.
Sherine joined the saving fund in her village early on and she took a large loan from the society amounting to 4,000 Egyptian pounds.
Her eyes sparkled as she told us, with a big smile on her face, “I dreamed of having a buffalo”, She chuckled proudly.
Her husband rejected the idea. “How are we going to feed it?”, he objected.
The husband was very doubtful of his wife’s ability to feed the buffalo, but due to her insistence he finally gave in.
With a big smile on her face, Sherine commented, “Nagging is the weapon of an Egyptian woman” and the secret of her success was her nagging.
Sherine repaid the buffalo loan. Her success was that simple. She took another 1,000 EGP so that her husband rents a very small plot of land to feed the productive buffalo.
Her dreams did not stop at that, but she thought of another project, as the buffalo does not occupy much of her time. Her husband fought with her, rejected the whole idea and asked her to devote her time to her kids and taking care of them.
“Have I neglected any of my duties?”. Sherine did not neglect her children, but her husband opposed the idea just for the sake of opposition.
Sherine did not give in to her husband’s refusal and she cooperated with a lady neighbor of her who was also a member of the saving fund.
They both took a 5,000 EGP loan to work in garments trading.
Her trade grew, which made her in-laws who lived with her in the same house grow jealous.
Her sister in law (wife of her husband’s brother) flooded the house so that Sherine’s visitors could not buy clothes from her.
She did this on purpose, telling her “whether you like it or not”. It did not stop at that, but her husband’s elder brother hit her and her son, telling her “Are you going to act the lady here?”.
Her brother-in-law told her that when he started to sense her success and the improvement of her financial and living conditions; yet, she did not give up and this did not stop her from defending herself, proceeding with her projects and pursuing her dreams.
When her fights with her in-laws continued, her husband sided with her and supported her.
The house was divided between the brothers and the lot of Sherine and her husband was 3 rooms; a room for the buffalo, another for the garments and the third for them to live in. Despite the family of five being crammed in one room, this decision of distributing the house made Sherine happy and feel independent.
Sherine succeeded in her projects. “I have good manners and my prices are good, Whatever the village women ask for I get them”.
By that Sherine summarized the secret of her success in the garment trading project.
When she took us by the hand to show us her buffalo, there was a strange intimacy between her and the buffalo.
She patted it so tenderly and lovingly, calling it her “Lucky charm”. She asked us to take a souvenir photo of her and the buffalo.
Sherine feels a lot of contentment, pride and happiness due to her success in her project, “I have learned a lot. I used to be too shy to talk to anybody.
I’ve changed a great deal”, Sherine also advised us that it was not only her who changed, but her husband changed too, for he used to fight with her and try with all his might to stop her from trading in garments, “You don’t need such a job”, he constantly repeated.
His position changed when he saw how she repaid her debts without seeking his support; he felt then that she knows what she’s doing. He gives her support when she has too many clients. He prepares lunch for her and their children to give her time to look after her trade.
Sherine adjusted her cheerful, flowery headscarf on her head and proudly said, “I used to feel helpless, but now I’ve learned how to be strong.
In the future, my children will follow in my footsteps”, She chuckled, bent a little backwards and continued, “my eldest son is embarrassed because my clientele are all women”.
Sherine concluded, “I will put shelves and expand my garment project”. It was clear to us that for her dreams the sky is the limit.