Saturday April 13, 2017
By Alexandra Kinias
Mariam Farag’s busy schedule is overflowing. You may catch her between meetings, in an airport travelling around the Middle East, visiting a refugee camp, an orphanage or a project she is leading, speaking at conferences advocating and promoting Arab youth start their business, or support those who are already running one. She is always on a mission with one goal in mind; the empowerment, development and betterment of the lives of Arab women, children and youth, especially the underprivileged ones.
Leader of Al Amal “Hope” Program, a subsidiary of the Corporate Social Responsibility “CSR” program at the MBC group, she strategizes her company’s vision and responsibilities in the region and globally, and works hard to implement these strategies. She led the establishment of the department, the design, development and implementation of various projects touching the lives of thousands across the region particularly women and children. Leading one of the largest social initiatives in the Middle East can become challenging at times, yet the tangible results and impact of her work on the communities served by the CSR are rewarding.
With a dazzling smile that melts one’s heart, the wife and mother of two young boys, 7 and 9 years old, is always there extending a helping hand to those in need. Helping people is not just a job she signed up for, but a passion, a goal and a commitment. It’s a value she learned as a child, which became her motive and driving force; a value she is also working hard to install in her kids.
Farag and her two brothers were raised by their single mom in Cairo, Egypt, in the seventies. From a young age, Farag watched how her mother juggled many responsibilities on her own, not to mention the challenges she faced as a young divorced woman and an entrepreneur in a society that wasn’t very accepting of either.
“My mother always taught us that nothing is impossible and to always follow our dreams, work hard and we will succeed, nothing comes easy, but to always keep the faith.” Farag’s mother was her inspiration who propelled her to become the person she is today.
Growing up in this environment polished Farag’s character and made her more resilient, independent and responsible. Her mother also planted the seeds of humanitarian work into the young girl’s mind. She installed in her the values she follows today. “We grew up in a caring and giving home, and it was my mother who introduced us to charitable work and community service at a young age. That’s how it all started.” Farag explained.
At fourteen, Mariam was already volunteering at the SOS Children’s villages, and the children’s cancer hospital. The passion for humanitarian work grew inside her and became the driving force that shaped her vision and later her future. “Helping and improving people’s lives, supporting the less fortunate children and Arab youth is what keeps me going. It’s my sense of purpose and drive. It is not just a job for me. It’s my passion.”
Her involvement in social work at a young age made her aware of the hard conditions many underprivileged children are living in. It taught her to be grateful for the cards life handed her and propelled her to help the needy and underprivileged. Following in her mother’s footsteps, Farag also emphasizes the value of helping the underprivileged to her young kids.
“Being blessed with a good home, a loving family and the leisure of schools and games should not let them forget that there are kids who are less privileged.” She encourages her sons to donate their toys and clothes to the needy, and involve them in charitable work at this young age to instate in them social responsibilities. It is becoming a ritual for her kids to shop for the Eid clothes for the less fortunate kids and to spend time with them. “Growing to learn about the hardships of other is the best teacher for them to appreciate their life and what they are offered.” She proceeded.
Farag brought to the MBC over 18 years of experience working in the fields of social development and humanitarian relief. Farag started her career in 1999, working for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), where she managed a nationwide campaign focusing on the social and economic empowerment of female heads of households in twenty-two governorates in Egypt. Later, she joined the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as part of the International Protection Legal team where she was part of various regional and international missions. She also worked at the American University of Sharjah (AUS) where she developed strategic partnerships and community outreach programs.
Becoming successful doesn’t come easy if you are a woman and a mother, especially in the Middle East. It always comes with some sacrifices and often a high price. With her busy work schedule and extensive travels in the region, she often misses her kids’ day to day activities, important school events and special occasions. But thanks to her husband and today’s technology, she is able to catche up with them by Skype, on daily basis, to check on their school work, organize their playdates and after school activities.
Farag couldn’t agree more that behind every successful woman is a man who believes in and supports her. “He believes in my mission and always pushes me to be better and to do more. He’s always there for me when things get rough and always believes in me, especially at times when I stop believing in myself. He supports my endless travel to reach more people, inspire young minds and impact more lives. I’m usually on a plane twice a month and he takes care of our boys until I’m back. This is how all men should be. Fathers, husbands, brothers, friends and especially managers!”
She works relentlessly to recognize and reward individuals and organizations that work hard to bring hope and change to the most unfortunate in the region, through designing various award programs and partnership programs for the MBC. Her innovative approach and ideas have transformed the lives of thousands in the region.
Farag’s ultimate goal is to help all children in the region. She also dreams to form her own foundation to help the less privileged children, “To protect children, give them a home, where they can be empowered, developed and most importantly can be loved. Every child deserves a chance and it is my dream to make that a reality for all our children.” She said.
Farag believes every woman can achieve anything if she sets her mind to it. She aspires to see the women of Egypt follow their passion and have faith in themselves. “We are all born with something special. We all have role to play. Find your passion find your role and make it happen. Never stop believing in yourself. Only then will you find your place in the world.” She concluded.
Mariam Farag received her B.A in Political Science from the American University in Cairo (AUC). In 1999, she received her master’s in International Relations and Political Theory from the University of Westminster in London, UK. Mariam is a member of the Regional Board of Injaz Al Arab representing MBC Group – MBC Hope, as well as the Education for Employment UAE Advisory Board. She volunteers her time serving on a number of regional and global boards. She is currently a member of the Regional Board of Injaz Al Arab, The UAE Advisory Board of Education for Employment (EFE), Marwa Fayed Toy Run (MFTR) and recently have joined the SOS Villages Strategic Advisory Global Network.
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