A network of confessions: Saying what's not said

Salonaz Sami , Sunday 26 Feb 2023

Ahram Online talks to Zeinab Al-Ashry, founder of Confessions of a Married Woman Facebook community and Entaleqi platform

Zeinab El Asry


If you get married thinking it is all green on the other side, you are far from the truth. Marriage is just like any other relationship that has both good and bad days.

And while people would share their good happy days on their social media bundles, non, however, would post an image of their fights or talk about their bad days.

When Al-Ashry got married, she was baffled.

"No one really prepares you for what married life is like," she said. 

"My mother and close friends were the only ones I could turn to, and I remember always telling my friends, you didn't tell me that marriage was like this," she added.

As a newlywed, Al-Ashry faced many incidents that she didn't expect or knew how to deal with and that made her feel lost. "But I thought it was only me," she explained.

However, Al-Ashry's friends made her feel she was not alone, and they provided a support system for each other. Hence, the group came to life.

At first, Al-Ashry created the group only for her friends and co-workers to openly discuss all their unanswered questions about marriage.

That was seven years ago, but little did she know.

"The group is now a safe space where over 200,000 women can discuss marital issues, including sexual well-being and sexual health," she said.

Al-Ashry has more than 10 years of experience in business management, working for different multinationals and international organizations.

She holds a B.Sc. in Political Sciences from Faculty of Economics and political sciences, Cairo University, and an MBA in International Marketing.

Finally, yet importantly, the 35-year-old mother of two beautiful girls is now a certified mentor from the Women Entrepreneurship Network (WEN) and USAID as part of their new project to support women entrepreneurs.

Moreover, due to the sensitivity of the issues discussed in the group, the fact that you could post your problem anonymously without a name really helped.

"Many women feel safer posting anonymously, when they don't have to expose their identity," Al-Ashry said.

It helps the women be more engaged, post more regularly and have more honest and open conversations without the fear of someone screenshotting their names and forwarding it on to whomever.

"Because of our culture, people don't share their deepest secrets with anyone in person, but it's much easier, however, to do so anonymously in a group," Al Ashry explained.

The group started with married women, but later it became a huge support system for all women, regardless of their age or marital status.

"The nature of problems discussed in the group is very sensitive. Topics like sexual problems, cheating problems, financial issues or abuse and sexual harassment," she said.

Al-Ashry posts live discussions on both the Facebook and Instagram pages, with doctors, therapists and life coaches among others to further help the women in the group.

The latest live, which was about bullying and how to deal with it, was in cooperation with Safe institute.

However, Al-Ashry didn't stop with the Facebook community, but took it to the next level with launching a platform concerned with women's health and well-being.

During the covid pandemic, she quit her job and launched the platform "Entaleqi" which offers educational content, videos, articles and statistics, created with the help of doctors, psychiatrists and life coaches.

Their latest event 'The happiness formula', held last November, aimed to celebrate women for who they are.

"In our community, women are usually pressured into certain norms, like having to work to be successful or having to get married to be successful," Al-Ashry explained.

"But we wanted to tell women that the important thing is to be happy no matter what you do or where you are in life," she added. 

Moreover, in order to expand the range of services supporting women, her organisation started engaging in offline activities by organising workshops and sessions that raise awareness about women's health and relationships.

In addition, the organisation issues a membership card that offers members special discounts on products and services offered by members of the network.

"We found that most of the problems we get in the group are fixable but expensive or not covered by medical insurance, so we came up with our discount card," she said.

The card offers access to a wide directory of trusted doctors, therapists, life coaches, psychiatrists, sexual therapists, and marriage counsellors among other occupations.

"A year ago, we decided to think out of the box, and we started organising themed retreats for our members to help them relax and get the support they need through different classes and workshops," Al-Ashry said.

 So far, they have organized retreats for unmarried women, single mums, seniors, couples, mother and child among others.

Their next scheduled event for this year is under the name of 'You are the first', which will focus on pioneer women in different areas of life.

"We will focus on women who have done it first, like the first Egyptian woman officially authorised to perform marriage, or on women, like Manal Rustom, who was the first to climb Mount Everest, or the first woman to obtain her literacy certificate," Al-Ashry said.

Al-Ashry is also planning on organising workshops to teach women arts and crafts, such as jewellery and candle making, to help them improve their incomes and overall life.

"We are also working on provide an online version of our pre-marital workshop, so that newlyweds would have access to all the information and help they need at all times," she added.

"It's a lot of work, but with the support of my husband and family anything is possible," she further added.

Recently, Al-Ashry has been selected by the Swedish Institute, along with 30 other women in the Middle East, to be a part of 'She Entrepreneurs' programme which supports women who are building businesses that drive social, or environmental, change in their countries.



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