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Nr. 124 - Januar 2013


SEKEM‘s Journal for Culture, Economy, Society and Ecology in Egypt

Editorial Dear Readers, In the last issue we reported on SEKEM’s efforts for a better integration of women into the economic process through a detailed, gender-sensitive analysis of the supply chains at Naturetex, SEKEM’s company for organic textiles. This month we wish to introduce you to extensive EconoWin projected supported by the German GIZ, in which SEKEM also participated.

Affirmative Action

Ethical Business

Better Policies

Integrating Women into Economic Life

Helmy Abouleish Speaks at SUSCON

World Future Council Meets in Abu Dhabi

Sewing Dolls for SEKEM: Four Women Tell Their Stories SEKEM is engaged in the EconoWin project funded by the German Association for International Cooperation (GIZ) to achieve better integration of women into the workforce. Four women working for SEKEM’s textile company tell their very personal stories.

The project covers four areas of action that aim to break down socio-cultural boundaries for the inclusion of women into economic development, that offer guidance to women and other stakeholders, and intend to pursue an active improvement of economic policies enacted in countries of the Middle Eastern. The project is being carried out in Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, and other countries. In a commentary, the journalist Julia Gerlach writes about four women who work for SEKEM in the context of these activities. They tell their own personal stories and share their experiences with of reconciling work and family lives under the conditions of life in rural Egypt on the edge of the Nile Delta.

Your Team of Editors Find SEKEM also on the Internet at:

SEKEM‘s support to improve the economic integration of women often goes new ways in rural Egypt. For instance, by offering ways to integration job and family more easily (archival image).


ida Mahmoud Mohammed, 27 years old, heads a workshop in her house. She is mother of one son and lives with her husband and the first wife of her husband with her four kids in a small house in the Village next to SEKEM: “Our days here in the country side start early; we get up at 6 am, feed the animals, get the children ready for school and prepare breakfast for our husband. After finishing the

housework, at around nine, I sit down to work. I am working until it’s time to prepare lunch and I help the children doing their homework. After finishing everything I go back to work in the afternoon. I am working six to eight hours per day. I have just started, so I haven’t seen any money yet, but I pray to God, that I will get a good salary; that the work is worth it. After finishing middle school at SEKEM I worked in the doll factory inside the farm. I liked SEKEM Insight | Januar 2013 | Page 1


from my neighborhood in Mansura. And: You see, and I am still here. That’s because I made it clear from the beginning, that I would only marry him if he would let me continue working. After we married he started working here, too and we got a new flat of the company. When our child is born he will go to the SEKEM nursery and I don’t see any reason why I should not be doing my job as before. I think the Egyptian mentality needs to change: People would live much better if they would let the women go to work. Most families can’t have a decent life with only one salary. ”

In the framework of SEKEM’s social projects, the initiative carries out many support measures directed specifically at women in economic life. Here, midwives are receiving vocational training.

this work a lot. It was better paid and we got all the insurances and benefits. I enjoyed it a lot to work together with all the other girls and it was good to get out of the house. After I married I had to quit the job. Why? Because that’s how life is here in the Egyptian country side. The men don’t want their wives to work outside the house. They always want to have them close by in case they need anything. What can we do? Working from home is a good possibility for me to earn some money. I don’t think that this will actually change my role in the family but who knows ; once the first money is in my pocket. We will see. To start this work shop I didn’t need much: I bought some scissors, needles and the blanket we are working on. The company delivers all the other materials and a sample, so we know how the dolls should look like in the end. Being the boss of a workshop might seem something to be proud of, but actually I don’t really like shouldering the responsibility. As I told you: I pray to God a lot that it will work out.”

the other girls and I like to teach them and help them understand what they have to do. The most important thing they need to learn is to differentiate between right and wrong. It’s very important that our products are 100 percent correct. Otherwise they will not be sold. When a girl is new I watch her for a while. Some have a lot of talent and I teach them to do the needle work right away. Others, well, they do the stuffing of the heads and hands of the dolls. I also like the atmosphere here, the nice way we are treated by our bosses. They care about us.

“I love my work. It’s a nice job.”

My parents used to work at SEKEM as well, but they moved back to our hometown Mansura some years ago. My boss here in the factory told me that she would like me to stay and my brother and I got an apartment here on the farm. A year ago I married a man

Samia Ibrahim, 26 years old, is supervisor in the NATURTEX Doll Factory. She is married and pregnant with her first child: „I love my work. It’s a nice job. I like to work with all

What is very frustrating on the other hand is that many of the girls leave when they get married. We invest a lot in their training and once they are good, they quit and we have to start all over again with new girls. I have been with SEKEM since I went to school here. Later I studied at the University of Zagazig. In fact I have a degree as a teacher of History, but now I am working with the needle. I guess this suits me better.

Ulfat Ali, 23 years old, she works in the NATURTEX Doll Factory, she is engaged and hopes to get married next year: “I am still a Miss. I am more or less the last one of the girls who started working with me five years ago who is still not married and who is still working. I live with my family in Abu Hammada. Every morning I take the company bus. I leave the house at seven, we arrive here at eight. Normally we work until five, but very often we do overtime. Then we might work until seven. By the time I come home it’s eight or nine and I will have dinner and sit a bit with my family. That’s it. If we have many urgent orders, I might take work home and do some more at night. I graduated from school after year 11 with a diploma in commerce, but I really like this work. I like to work with my hands and I also like the idea that we are producing something that meets the taste of people in Germany. It‘s nearly as if I would travel myself. “I think that it’s good that I have my own income.” My salary is quite good. I earn around 100 Euro a month plus the bonus for overtime. Since my father has died my family needs the money. I hope to marry soon and I absolutely want to continue working here. I was engaged once before but had to break up because the family of my fiancée

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At SEKEM girls may receive vocational training also in fields rather uncommon in rural Egypt.

for several months. Generally speaking, apart from the anxieties, I am very happy in my job. I started two years ago, bought the sewing machine and set up the workshop. Working in my fathers’ house allows me to take care of children and my household. I live next door. I built the house when I got divorced from my first husband. I was working at SEKEM at the time and saved every penny to build a home for me and my baby son. When I got married for the second time, my husband moved in. So he couldn’t say anything against me working and he didn’t get the chance to say anything against my son. Otherwise he might have wanted him to be sent away to stay with his father or someone from the family. Political Uncertainties

didn’t like the idea of a working daughter in law. I insist because I like what I do and I do also think that it’s good to have my own income. It will help me to have a bigger say in the family. It would be best if I could find a job for my fiancée at SEKEM as well. This would make it much easier for me to convince him. Otherwise it will not be easy”. “I work at Naturetex also because of the salary and the benefits.” Azza Rizk al Mahmoud, 29 years old, heads a workshop in the house of her parents; two employees. She is divorced and married again. She has two sons.

Economic Integration of Women in the MENA Region (EconoWin) Despite successes in modernization and progress in education the countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) remain the region of the world with the lowest participation of women in the economy. In the countries in which the project operates, in 2009 an average of only 25 percent of all women were in employment. The economic integration of women is hampered by fundamental socio-cultural barriers. There are also institutional and legal obstacles, such as poor access to training and jobs in the formal (especially private) sector, and the lack of offers for childcare, inflexible working hours, and adverse labor market incentives. The project will be implemented in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia. It consists of four components: Change in awareness and change of the role of women in the workforce To raise the awareness, discuss, and question women's traditional role in society and working life, EconoWin

“I have been working in the NATURTEX Factory for several years. That was a much better job, because of the salary and the benefits. I also felt more at ease because I knew that I would get my money at the end of every month, no matter what happens. Now I have this feeling of anxiety: Will I manage to deliver the dolls on time? Will they be up to the standard? And I also have to worry about the future: Will there be a new order coming up? Sometimes the company does not have many orders and then they work only the girls in the factory but don’t give out work to the workshops. Last year I was without work

carries out a media campaign on women and work in close cooperation with national civil society organizations. In all four countries, events will be organized that will show existing films on the subject in order to stimulate a public debate. During a second phase, new films will be shown, that have been produced for the new campaign. Consulting and implementation of gender-sensitive economic and employment policies Many countries in the region have adopted women- and family-friendly employment laws. However, these are often not properly implemented. EconoWin strives to collect good examples in cooperation with the private sector, to develop and to demonstrate the benefits of increased integration of women in economic life. In parallel the project promotes political dialogue to improve options for better reconciliation of work and family lives.

I don’t think that the revolution has changed anything in my life so far. I don’t earn more money. The political uncertainty adds to my anxieties. If I felt surer about the future I might buy another sewing machine or two and get more girls to work with me. But I always have to fear that I will not get enough work to do. For a doll like this I need 22 Minutes. We can do 60 dolls per day and at the end, after paying for transportation and everything, we get around 50 Euro each per month”. This article was written by Julia Gerlach for the GIZ-financed project EconoWin. EconoWin kindly allowed its reprint in this newsletter.

women are either already active as workers, managers or entrepreneurs, or sectors with potential for greater integration of women. One gender-sensitive approach encompasses the promotion of local supply chains, such as crafts or regional culinary products in Tunisia. Vocational guidance for women in higher- and lowerskilled segments Currently, the supply of decent jobs for women cannot keep pace with the increasing number of school graduates in the MENA region. EconoWin therefore supports the transition of women from the college into employment through a "female mentoring" system at a Moroccan university. In Jordan, the private sector will be supported through dedicated support to young, less qualified women such as cooks or in service provision to facilitate their transfer to the hotel and catering industry.

Economic empowerment of women To strengthen the economic position of women in disadvantaged areas EconoWin carries out gendersensitive analyses in selected subsectors with high growth potential. These analyses focus on sectors in which

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Leuphana Universität Lüneburg, Fakultät Nachhaltigkeit

BEITRÄGE SEKEMS UND DER HELIOPOLIS UNIVERSITY FÜR EINE NACHHALTIGE ENTWICKLUNG IN ÄGYPTEN Vortrag und Diskussionsveranstaltung mit Alternativ- Nobelpreisträger Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish

Biographie Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish studierte Chemie und Medizin an der Universität Graz in Österreich, wo er 1969 promovierte. Im Anschluss leitete er dort bis 1977 die Abteilung für pharmazeutische Forschung. Im Jahre 1975 wurde er sich während eines Besuchs in Ägypten der dort vorherrschenden, dringlichen Probleme von Überbevölkerung, Verschmutzung und mangelnder Schulbildung bewusst. Daher gründete er 1977 die Entwicklungsinitiative SEKEM, um ein Modell für ein ganzheitliches Unternehmen im 21. Jahrhundert zu entwickeln. SEKEM ist seitdem exponentiell gewachsen und zu einem landesweit renommierten Unternehmen aufgestiegen, das als Marktführer seine Bio-Produkte heutzutage auch nach Europa und in die USA exportiert. 1990 gründete SEKEM das Zentrum für Biologische Landwirtschaft in Ägypten als Regulierungs- und Zertifizierungsinstitution für biologische Landwirtschaft. Dr. Abouleish hat 2003 den Right Livelihood Award (Alternativer Nobelpreis) erhalten, 2008 wurde er mit dem Großen Bundesverdienstkreuz ausgezeichnet. Von der Organisation der Vereinten Nationen für industrielle Entwicklung (UNIDO) erhielt Dr. Abouleish einen Sonderpreis für seine Vorreiterrolle in biologischer Landwirtschaft, CO2 Zertifizierung und umweltfreundliche Entwicklung. Im Herbst 2012 feierte Sekem den Start der „Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development“.

Platzhalter für Grafiken, Fotos, Diagramme

Textfarbe dunkelgrau (RGB: 88, 88, 90) Textgröße 7 pt Quadratfarbe hellgrau (RGB: 225, 227, 223) Quadratgröße 60 x 60 mm Überschriftfarbe jaspis (RGB: 123, 8, 50) Überschriftgröße 10 pt ggf. hier eine Bildunterschrift

Platzhalter für Grafiken, Fotos, Diagramme


Textfarbe dunkelgrau (RGB: 88, 88, 90) Textgröße 7 pt Quadratfarbe hellgrau (RGB: 225, 227, 223) Quadratgröße 60 x 60 mm Überschriftfarbe jaspis (RGB: 123, 8, 50) Überschriftgröße 10 pt ggf. hier eine Bildunterschrift



Am 23. Januar 2013 Von 17:30 bis 19:00

Wo? Im Hörsaal 2 Der Leuphana Universität Lüneburg Scharnhorststr. 1, 21335 Lüneburg

Der Vortrag findet in deutscher Sprache statt.

Leuphana Universität Lüneburg Innovations-Inkubator Prof. Dr. Clemens Mader Fon 04131.677-1565

SEKEM Insight | Januar 2013 | Page 4


SusCon Demands Radical Paradigm Change in Industries and Society Helmy Abouleish participated with 450 guests in the 3. SusCon conference for sustainability and sustainable consumption in Bonn, Germany.

More than 450 participants from 37 countries brought the issue of a Green Economy into the centre of the former Bundestag in Bonn from November 27th-28th. The motto of the International Conference on Sustainable Business and Consumption (SusCon) was “Green Economy – from intention to action”. In the plenum of the World Conference Centre and during all 12 thematic sessions, delegates from businesses, non-governmental organisations, the media and science discussed concrete steps towards achieving a sustainable economy and society. Important highlight of SusCon 2012 was the video communique by HRH Prince Charles in which he underlined the value of organic farming and the need for sustainable development. Other high points were the trenchant presentations of Auma Obama, Alain Caparros, Helmy Abouleish, Pavan Sukhdev, as well as Ernst-Ulrich von Weizsäcker and Ulrich Hoffmann. A World of Waste “We are used to a world full of waste and we call it wealth”, exclaimed physicist Prof Dr Ernst-Ulrich von Weizsäcker in the Plenum of the former German Parliament. “We must change our fundamental way of life”. One way could be to increase energy taxes on a yearly basis. “We have little time left”, seconded Dr Ulrich Hoffmann, Senior Policy Advisor for UNCTAD, in his committed plea. In their speeches, both speakers also stressed the importance of politics and democracy playing greater leadership roles, since markets only ever tell the myth of unlimited growth and unlimited resources.

Multinationals Present Sustainability Strategies In two discussion groups with participants from high-ranking representatives from the companies Kraft Foods, Interface and Deutsche Post/ DHL described their company’s internal sustainability strategies. Not only are these concrete strategies currently being implemented but they are, in part, deeply embedded in the companies’ strategic and economic business planning. The concern about future availability of raw materials for food production clearly came up as a recurring topic during the presentations. Barbara Unmüßig, President of the Heinrich-Böll Foundation, concentrated on the Green Economy as a new paradigm and criticised how the Green Economy is often used just a cloak to hide “business as usual”. The Kenyan development worker, Dr Auma Obama, expressed a critical view of the concept of sustainability. She spoke out for free trade between countries on an equal level, and criticised fairtrade concepts as tending to be paternalistic. Marlehn Thieme, Chair of the German Council for Sustainable Development, argued for “a new and cooperative understanding of politics and business”. Pavan Sukhdev, former Manager of Deutsche Bank, was also clear insofar as the responsibility of sustainability advertisements were concerned: “Advertising reminds me of the law of the jungle, only that it is even worse”. Advertisers cannot shirk their responsibility on the basis that they are only agents that did what their clients wanted of them.

Helmy Abouleish nahm für SEKEM an der SUSCON teil.

Helmy Abouleish: Further BioDynamic Farming Worldwide As a vehement proponent of ecological, biodynamic agriculture and food production as an inexpensive and effective solution to diverse problems, Helmy Abouleish, Director of the Sekem Group, proposed that this system be given preference worldwide. He argued for the social, economic and environmental benefits it brings, as well as the ethical and cultural dimension. The participants of the 12 thematic sessions sidelined developing a declaration of intent and instead discussed solutions including practical business models and radically new consumption patterns. The organisers of SusCon, along with eleven network partners published the “SusCon Bonn Declaration”. It includes concrete proposals for, and demands from politicians and business people, to develop a sustainable economic, social and ecological future for the planet. Quelle: SusCon

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Impressions from SEKEM


gain this year, Helmy Abouleish, CEO of the SEKEM Group of Companies, and other employees of SEKEM will hold several presentations at the leading event for the organic sector - BioFach 2013 - in Nuremberg .

Together with Tobias Bandel, Soil & More International BV, P. Sanjay Bansal, Sampad Vikas Limited (Ambootia) and Sebastiaan Huisman, Farm Juchowo, Radacz Kadzielnia, Helmy Abouleish will participate in the BioFach Forum on „CO2 neutral through organic farming - concrete examples“ on 13 February 2013 at 14:00 (Prague Room, 14:00h). Magdalena Kloibhofer, former SEKEM Manager in Sustainability Management, will participate in the BioFach forum focusing on „Common values ​​- Quantifying Sustainability using the ‘Gemeinwohlbilanz’“ on 14 February 2013. (with Horst Müller, Bodan Wholesale Natural Food GmbH, Joachim Weckman, Märkisches Landbrot GmbH and Friedemann Wecker, Demeter eV). The event will also take place at 14:00 in Room Budapest. We cordially invite you to attend the BioFach 2013, meet SEKEM’s staff and learn about the latest developments in the international organic sphere, and, of course, at SEKEM.

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News in Brief

World Future Council Meets in Abu Dhabi Relaunched

Demeter Product of the Year 2013

While the World Bank is urgently warning of the devastating effects of a temperature rise of 4 degrees and hopes for concrete results at the UN climate conference in Qatar are unsurprisingly low, the World Future Council, in which SEKEM is actively involved through the contributions of Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish on the topic of future economies, meets at its sixth annual meeting reconfirming its goal to pass a healthy planet to future generations. „A quick change of course is a prerequisite to prevent the threat of uncontrolled climate change“, said WFC founder Jakob von Uexküll. „With our work we want to ensure that the rights of future generations are respected worldwide. The decisions international policy will make within the next five years will be crucial for the well-being of future generations”.

Just in time for the target date, presents itself after its relaunch as a comprehensive and reliable information hub for anthroposophical news, information, and events. In 2013, SEKEM will be actively supporting the work of anthromedia. net.

Interest in the annual selection of the “Demeter Product of the Year” from manufacturers such as the biodynamic community to demanding consumers of organic food - is steadily on the rise. This year, the coffee by SEKEM partner Lebensbaum has also been nominated.

At the meeting in Abu Dhabi, the WFC’s annual work program for 2013 was unanimously adopted. The council decided, that, in order to effectively fight climate change, it would continue to focus on the implementation policy frameworks promoting “100% renewable energy”-solutions, and to contribute with all its might to the solution-oriented transfer of knowledge among the key players in this area.

„We are happy to have met our deadline after a long and intensive time of review and rework“, says anthromedia-spokeswoman Nadine Aeberhard. „Anthromedia has an excellent position in the market and can be easily found on the Internet. It is also published in four languages​​. The site is characterized by this internationality. It is perceived in the world as one of the most important portals on anthroposophy and its practical fields of work in all sectors. The navigation of the site is now much easier. All available content can be found more quickly. As a reliable source of daily news on anthroposophical initiatives, keeps the media and journalists informed on current issues in the field with news from the various areas of anthroposophical work, mostly from Germanspeaking countries.

A special emphasis shall be placed on concepts for the use of renewable energy in remote regions of Africa. Source: WFC


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Experts had initially created a shortlist from the extensive range of more than 3.000 Demeter food and cosmetic products. Result are expected to come in by the end of January. We wish Lebensbaum best of luck! Source: demeter furthermore links interested users with the websites of countless organizations and databases on related topics. A calendar presents current events and background data in Switzerland and Germany. Lastly, a regular newsletter (publication beginning in January 2013) will be sent to parties interested in anthroposophical fields of work. The newsletter can already be signed up for on the new website.


In issue 16 of the Demeter Journal the call went out to 300,000 readers to take part in the selection process that was launched last November. The selection was completed on 14 December. Consumers could vote using coupons printed in the Demeter Journal, via email, via the online form on, on postcards, and in shops.


Masthead: The editors of SEKEM Insight wish to thank all contributors to this issue. Editor: Bijan Kafi, Christina Anlauf Contact: SEKEM-Insight c/o SEKEM Holding P.O.Box 2834, El Horreya, Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt Pictures: 1: Klaus Merckens; 2, 6: Bijan Kafi; Business Award; 5: SusCon No republication without written consent by the publisher.

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SEKEM Insight 01.13 EN  
SEKEM Insight 01.13 EN  

SEKEM's monthly journal on economy, society, culture, and ecology in Egypt.