5 Women Spearheading Sustainable Practices In Egypt

March 9, 2023


With a rise in population predicted to reach nine billion in 2050, natural resources and energy sources are and will further be placed under duress, according to statistics released by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In addition, greenhouse emissions are predicted to increase by 50% with a need for over 80% of the energy needed by the world economy by 2050, as per the report. 

Plastic waste is produced globally at 400 million tons on a yearly basis, as per the World Economic forum. The fashion industry alone is accountable for plastic making up an estimate of about 60% of the material, with most garments ending up in landfills, and a smaller percentage in oceans. Microfibers, which come as a side-effect of plastic pollution, are a threat that harms both marine and human life. 

In Egypt, the transition towards sustainable practices has been well-underway with several businesses having women at the helm, leading the way.

Here are five women making waves both locally and internationally in several industries including skincare, fashion, and more.

Mona Erian

Founded in 1998, Nefertari is a body care brand that is chemical-free and uses natural raw materials sourced locally to manufacture its products. As part of its activities, the business also seeks to help marginalized communities by providing jobs locally and granting “a sustainable income” to underprivileged women. 

Photo Credit: What Women Want

Created by Pharmacist Mona Erian, Nefertari began as a line of soaps. Today, it includes a range of products from skincare to shampoos, and body exfoliators with ingredients like orange peel, coconut oil and sandalwood. 

“It began (…) when my daughter used a shampoo which literally burned her scalp. I searched for a natural shampoo but could not find a single one. Since I’m a pharmacist, I decided to make one myself using natural ingredients. I made a pure olive oil soap and was surprised by the result.” says Erian on the brand’s official website. 

Globally, over the past few decades, there’s been a rise in the number of businesses switching from chemical to organic. They are not only better for the environment but for overall health. Moreover, in terms of consumer demand, a third of purchasers on an international level are more inclined to pay higher fees for sustainable and environmentally friendly practices when it comes to their products, as per an article published by Business Wire in October 2021. 

Yara Yassin & Lama El-Khawanky

Co-founding Up-Fuse, a slow fashion brand using bottles, car tires, and plastic bags to make upcycled bags, Yassin and El-Khawanky work towards raising awareness as well as decreasing the amount of plastic bag pollution. Yassin, who was a product design major, created Up-Fuse with El-Khawanky, a graduate of the German University in Cairo, in 2013. 

Fast fashion has been a contributing industry to global carbon emissions at about 10%, according to a report published in 2022 by global think tank Earth.org. The fashion industry is also recognized as the second largest consumer of massive amounts of water, the report adds. Upcycling serves to re-use material that would otherwise end up in oceans and landfills, to create a new product – ultimately diminishing the repercussions on the environment. 

Registered as a social enterprise, Up-Fuse has gone international after winning several awards, as per a report published on ResearchGate in January 2022. The up-cycling fashion brand doesn’t only advocate for alternatives to the production of fashion, but it worked towards encouraging both a local and global movement towards environmentalism. Both women faced obstacles when heading up the business, one of which included their interactions within the waste sector – an industry that is male-dominated. Up-Fuse also works towards pushing the women’s empowerment agenda by creating jobs for women and girls. 

Photo Credit: UN Women

Norshek Fawzy

The brainchild of entrepreneur and mother, Norshek Fawzy, Norshek is a holistic business that prides itself on its sustainable and eco-friendly practices. The brand creates products for the body and the hair.

Photo credit: @NorshekFawzy

Fawzy, who started creating her own products back in 2012, sought to do so in an attempt to avoid having too many chemicals in what she consumed while pregnant. Starting the family business with her husband, Fawzy’s chemical-free brand collaborates with other entities to launch initiatives that aim to improve the environment and promote sustainable practices. 

Farah El Ashiry

El Ashiry, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing from the American University in Cairo, also got her degree in Fashion Design and Pattern-Making from the Italian Fashion Academy. 

Photo credit: Enigma Magazine

The young entrepreneur created the brand Fufa in 2014, by piecing together sustainable resources to create whole garments.  

It all began when the designer dabbled with her grandmother’s clothes, which she then turned into a beachwear collection. Finding its identity in wanderlust, music, freedom, and art, Fufa is a boho-inspired fashion brand that aims to spotlight the diverse culture of Egypt. Locally and ethically made, it works with women artisans (who also get compensation) to keep prevent century-old fabric traditions, be it weaving or looming, from dying.