In Egypt, where women are systematically disenfranchised in public spheres, there still exists a very archaic notion of what a mother should be; few working mothers have balanced home life and office life without at least receiving glances of judgment from colleagues or even family – 'a mother's place is in the home'.
Nancy Elias, Dina Gawdat and Sarah Abdel Razek beg to disagree, however. As three mothers who dropped out of the workforce after giving birth, the group had a collective lightbulb moment that gave birth to Tough Enough – a new magazine aimed at empowering and catering to both stay-at-home mums and working ones, too.
"Quitting work was really hard for me," Gawdat, a pharmacist who still works three days a week at the pharmacy she opened in 2010, told us. "But so was working 8,9,10 hours per day when you're the mother of a newborn."
Elias and Abdel Razek, who had fulltime corporate jobs, also felt the need to quit their jobs after giving birth as they struggled to balance work life and personal life.
Having more free time on their hands during daytime with their kids heading to kindergarten or school, Abdel Razek, Gawdat and Elias would get spend their free time together and it was then when they realised there are thousands of women who, like them, have put their careers on hold for their children.
"We felt the need to create a hub connecting these women together, showing them that they are not alone and allowing them to exchange their experiences," Abdel Razek said. "That's when the idea of Tough Enough was born."
Launching its first issue in January of this year, the content of Tough Enough may all seem very familiar, but at the heart of the magazine is the aim of inspiring stay-at-home mums into pursuing and resuming their own dreams and ambitions, proving wrong the idea that motherhood is a career-destroyer.
The magazine covers everything from nutrition and fitness, to travel and cooking, in addition to some other interesting features, like Tips & Tricks for interior decor and Inspiration, which highlights successful women in the workforce or women who, like them, decided to use the time that leaving their jobs have afforded them to start-up their own businesses and projects.
Raising Creative Kids is another one of Tough Enough's outstanding sections, where experts in children's psychology provide Egyptian mothers valuable tips on how to deal with a range of different personalities, helping them grow in a healthy environment and inducing their creativity in easy, effective ways.
But even with the type of material you'd expect in more typical women's magazines are done with the aim of the magazine still intact. The fashion section, for example, features a model who's in fact a mother with a passion for fashion and these steps feed into other elements of Tough Enough's, like promote positive body image and providing realistic, relatable content for its target readership.
The magazine achieves this by collaborating with women writers from different backgrounds, who each bring real life experiences to the table.
"In the first issue, our Wellbeing section was about depression and the subject was written by a certified psychiatrist," explained Gawdat. "We don't want writers to fill up content as much as we want people who contribute with their experience."
Tough Enough is free and can be found at cafés, beauty salons and gym facilities across Cairo, in areas including Giza, Maadi and New Cairo, with the team planning to increase its distribution in the coming months.
"We want Tough Enough to be a grab-and-go magazine, which is why we want it to stay for free," Abdel Razek told us. "Our revenue comes from advertisers and sponsors and they're increasing from issue to issue."
Marketing the magazine themselves, Elias, Gawdat and Abdel Razek have been quick to put the Tough Enough name out there, participating in events where their potential audience might be present. They were spotted most recently at the Rise of Her event, which brought together successful female entrepreneurs who shared their success stories with attendees. They will also be present in Mother's Day Bazaar at Cairo Festival City Mall on March 12th.
"The feedback we received on the first issue was really encouraging,' Abdel Razek said, proudly. "Our readers loved the magazine design, cover photo, portable size and its entire concept."
For more information on Tough Enough, click here.