People in SEKEM: Thoraya Raafat Seada

Thoraya is the perfect example of willpower and strength of an Egyptian women. In a society that seems at first glance dominated by men, Thoraya is the best reminder of why in Egyptian cultural heritage Egypt has always been referred to as “Baheya” (a female’s name meaning gorgeous and glorious). Project manager at the age of 24, graduate with honors in Aviation Engineering; and for 10 years now a valued member of SEKEM community. 

Thoraya grew up in a home that taught her discipline and responsibility. “I could only get so far having support and encouragement  from my home,” Thoraya tells. Her family helped her get on the track but the rest was up to her.

Never taking the easy way . . .

Never taking the easy way; Thoraya chose to study aviation engineering, which is one of the most difficult and complicated studies, not to mention dominated by men! Her choice was based firstly on interest but also to challenge the norm and pave the way for women in this field. She was one of two female students  in the faculty. Thoraya graduated with excellent grades but was shocked to know that she could only ever be able to get an office job and she would never get the chance to put to practice what she had spent five years studying.

On her trips to visit her father who worked outside the city, she always passed by SEKEM and every time her fascination and curiosity grew towards the place. When she graduated she knew she wanted to be a part of it. It wasn’t so difficult to recognize her potential and her passion for the environmental cause; her graduation project was for instance on the reduction of plane’s emissions. So she joined SEKEM’s team for sustainable development  in 2009 and in 2014 she became the project manager of The Carbon Footprint Center including the important research project “The Future of Agriculture of Egypt”.

Two strong ladies from Africa: Thoraya with Dr. Auma Obama during a conference of the World Future Council held at SEKEM.

“I don’t recall Dr. Ibrahim ever using the word colleague he would always say; brother or sister.” 

“I am so grateful for the knowledge and experience I received during my time at SEKEM especially from Dr. Ibrahim. “He taught me that working in agriculture is the most valuable profession of all, to bring life to the earth and that we are God’s hands on earth,” the 32 year old Thoraya tells.

Ibrahim Abouleish’s vision and goals then became Thoraya’s. She took on the responsibilities in spite of her young age and lack of experience and contributed to many projects that serve SEKEM’s community, Egypt, and even the world. Thoraya doesn’t follow other people’s ambitions in longing for a higher position or a better  salary. She rather wants to shape a better future for people and the planet and to experience the true sense of community. “I don’t recall Dr. Ibrahim ever using the word colleague – always said brother or sister. It didn’t take me long to realize I was amongst family,” says Thoraya.

Two families

Thoraya’s own family grew while she was working at SEKEM. One  year after she joined SEKEM, she received her son Moemen. “I remember how surprised everyone was to see me working in full capacity only three days before his  birth. But what can I do when my projects are my babies too!” exclaims Thoraya. After having her son, she started to work part time. But, to Thoraya, that only limits her hours at the office, not affecting her level of responsibility, devotion, and dedication.

32 year old Thoraya in SEKEM head office

“My projects are my babies too.”

“I make sure to bring my family to SEKEM at every occasion, to meet my other family they get to hear about all the time,” says Thoraya. Her husband Mahmoud who always supports her, her children; Moemen who is now eight, Habiba who’s five and Kenzy only 2 years old, attend every celebration at SEKEM; she makes sure to engage them to  SEKEM’s methods and teachings at home. “It was Dr. Ibrahim who taught me how to be a parent. He used to say: ‘Teach your children to love you for the kindness you offer them not for presents.’ I still live by his words,” says Thoraya. That advice especially rings true to her because her husband is often gone for work trips and instead of replacing his absence with presents they make sure to make each moment he’s around count.

One decade  counts a lot to a person’s development, and ten years in SEKEM have done Thoraya plenty. “I wasn’t interested or talented at art. In SEKEM, I learned to appreciate music, dancing and even drawing; which I now do a lot with my children.”  Thoraya Seada is an energetic Egyptian woman, who doesn’t only seek greatness but also goodness! Besides her successful career, she is a loved and responsible mother and wife and one of SEKEM’s gems who are devoted to keeping Ibrahim Abouleish’s vision alive.

Nadine Greiss

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