Anne: I'm delighted to welcome Iman Bibars today from Egypt and from the Ashoka Foundation to speak about the issues she is working on and that she is most passionate about at the moment, and then we'll talk a little further about the past and the future. But first a brief introduction. Iman: About myself? Anne: Yes Iman: My name is Iman Bibars and I'm Egyptian. I think I am a social entrepreneur, and I have started working on women's issues for at least 32 years in the Middle East and Africa. I started the Ashoka Foundation branch in the Middle East around eleven years ago. Actually, mid-March it will be eleven years ago. Anne: You also founded a nonprofit organization? Iman: Yea, 28 years ago I founded the first microfinance organization in the Middle East, and, not only Egypt, I co-founded with several of my friends. And it was the first NGO that works with female heads of households, works on microcredit, and works on legal assistance, and the legal existence of women in Egypt. Anne: Looking back over the last ten years, did that represent a kind of response to the issues that you thought were most important at that time? I would ask you, looking back over the last ten years, what do you think have been the major issues and maybe even the achievements in the women's movement? Iman: I think it is interesting because there is contradictory stuff. So for example, if we look at the Middle East, you will find that a lot of laws came during the last ten years supporting women. You know, there were many things about recognition of women's rights, for example to have nationality, to give the nationality to their kids. There were issues about women's place in politics, that we need more women ministers, or judges, or in the parliament. So the laws were there. There was a much better framework, legal framework for women. On one hand, there is a lot of education and educated women. There is much more voice for women, on the women's side. But the last ten years in the Middle East, what we noticed that this was not translated into what men believed or what the communities believed. After the revolution in Egypt, for example, one of the sad and strange things was that immediately after the revolution, there were so many calls for women to go back home. Although women were part of the revolution, and were as heard and, you know, strong as men. But suddenly there were voices for women to go home, to change the laws that were... that were supporting women, which were based on religion by the way. So this, I don't know, this dilemma or contradiction made us all in the women's movement think "what really is going on now"? We have the laws, we have more voices, we have stronger women, but something did not translate into the communities, and I think that this is what we need to focus on. Anne: And comment more about that. Do we have theories about what is going on? Because as you speak about this sort of "back to the home" movement—people pushing women back into a domestic life—reminds me of what happened in South Africa where women were actively involved in the anti-apartheid movement and in the revolutionary changes there, and after that they were really invited back into the home rather than into public life. Would you comment on that? Iman: I think, I mean again this is my own opinion, but I think we should really start focusing on empowering women but also empowering men to understand women. And, you know what I always say, the patriarchal paradigm is more unfair to men than to women, and men should recognize that. The patriarchal paradigm is making men too responsible as if they are the only ones who are in control, and it is really diminishing the rights of choice. And really this is one of the things that I have been thinking of: Why are you not allowed to stay home as a man if you want to? Why do you think this would diminish your manhood? So the patriarchal paradigm is as harmful to you as to us. You are diminishing our ability to be as powerful and as a decision maker outside, but it's also diminishing your right to think of yourself as a father or to think of yourself as a homemaker. Anne: I've often thought that over time what a huge burden this stereotype has been on men, of that tremendous pressure to have to bring in all the money... Iman: Exactly! Anne: ...to be responsible for the survival of the family. It's on the one hand, a powerful position one might say, but I've often thought that it was a huge psychological, and for that matter physical, mental, burden on men. Iman: I totally agree with you. I mean this is a guy who cannot retire if he wants to retire. This is a guy who has all this responsibility on his shoulders, when, really, family and marriage is about partnership. So I think, our next movement should be the patriarchal paradigm's stereotype is as bad to you as to us. And we really have to change that. Just as we have to change the way education is. I mean, the world now shows that all these traditional ways of doing things have not worked. Nobody is happy! The men are not happy, the women are not happy, the kids now are not as they should be change-makers, they should be entrepreneurial. This way of doing education as if we're still in the factory should really change. And I think men and women together should understand that. Anne: You've anticipated my next question, which is: As you look forward for the next ten years, what do you think are the challenges? And I guess I would put it this way, because you have partially answered that question: There are these broad challenges. But getting into a more specific level of operation, what, in practical terms do you think we can do to carry out this kind of change in the paradigm? Iman: I think it involves several things. One of it is we need more women leaders. I mean at the end of the day, we need to empower more women to be leaders, but I would say: "Lean in, break out, and take over! So you know, I would not just say "lean in." I think "lean in" is important, but I also think that we have to break out. And I believe that opposition is something and resistance is something else. And if we want to change the system, to be better for everyone, it is not enough to subvert and oppose, which is "lean in." You need to break out and change. And what I'm saying here is if we want, for example, in the social entrepreneurship world, where Ashoka is enacting all these wonderful social, where Ashoka is electing all these social entrepreneurs, these innovative people who are trying to change the world. We are trying now to create this endowment fund when we elect more women, right, that are social entrepreneurs across the globe, but also help these women be partners in the decision making process, help these women scale their ideas to change the world, and bring in the men to do that with us. The Women Endowment Fund for example is to bring this fund, which will give us a lot of freedom, to find more women social entrepreneurs, to get on board more male social entrepreneurs who are willing to support these women to scale up. And as I said, the challenges are that we have to recognize that we all live in this world and it cannot be governed by one gender and not the other. We all live in this world, whether in the business or the social sector. We both have to understand that the challenge in the future is how we build the world together. No longer: one gender more or the other. And the only way to believe in that is to really work together to change the world. To not only "lean in." Break out and change the world. Anne: In the work of Ashoka for example, as you are beginning to focus on women leaders and now perhaps supporting particular women to move up into leadership positions whether it be in government, or the corporate world or wherever, would Ashoka also buy into that goal in the way it is supporting men? In other words, might they begin to be, to look for men who clearly demonstrate their commitment to a change in the paradigm, so that you, you know, you work on your goal on both sides? Iman: I totally agree. I think what we are doing at Ashoka globally is to look for any social entrepreneur, because we are looking for those people who are trying to find local solutions to local problems in an innovative systemic change way, right. The Women Fund will do exactly that. The Women Fund will give us liberty, those people who believe that there is a need to change the paradigm, is to give us liberty, to find more female leaders in the social entrepreneurial sphere, to support some of them to scale up, and have more impact, social impact, in their communities, but beyond. But also to look for those men, you know, who are willing, because without the men we will not be able to change and without the women the world will not be able to be a better world. And I think this is part of I would say the ideology, the vocation, the passion of the Women Endowment Fund. Let us together have a better world and to put it in everybody's heads, in the schools, in the change- making schools, in the social entrepreneurs we are going to elect, in the training or the capacity building we are going to do. Guys and girls: without all of us working together we will not have a better world. Anne: What advice would you give to women around the world, many of whom may be watching this video? What advice would you give to them, if they wanted to join, not join specifically your program, but share the goals that you've outlined? Iman: I would tell them the first thing; self-definition, our own definition of ourselves is the biggest barrier we have. We have to believe in ourselves. I mean we have to believe that we are human beings, all of us, and that, do not hesitate to ask, do not hesitate to ask for help, but also do not hesitate to ask for your rights. You know, women have these problems, either they don't ask for their rights or they don't ask for help, and it does not diminish us to ask for help. So this is number one. Number two: think outside the box. You know, you have to think of how to solve problems in a way that is outside the box, and do not be afraid to be against the current because the future is for us to think out of the box so that we can solve the problems that nobody has been able to solve. Have confidence in yourself, define yourself as an equal, define yourself as somebody who is a change-maker, and empower everyone around you: empower other women, empower young people, and empower men too, because only if we are all empowered as change-makers can we really change the world. Anne: Thank you so much! Iman: Thank you!