Long before the momentum picked up by dramas such Netflix's recently-released Finding Ola or this Ramadan's series Faten Amal Harbi, the Boost Solutions social media platform pioneered in drawing attention to women's independence issues.
Rashad's words, inspired by her own experience, speak of life as a series of successive stages each of which opens the door for the opportunities that follow.
Rashad - a writer, public speaker, and content creator - presents her content in a calm, albeit vivid, voice, optimistically speaking of a different perspective that must be explored by a woman who finds herself facing responsibilities that fall upon her alone towards herself and her children.
Rashad obtained a master’s degree in education from the American University in Cairo, and worked in the field of education for 17 years, teaching and providing consultation in the field.
When she moved with her family to the US, she provided educational services for adults and children and established a number of initiatives in this field.
Divorce and the return to Egypt with her three children were defining points in her life.
Rashad studied digital media production, and created Honest Content, a platform that garnered instant fame and attracted the attention of tens of thousands on social media platforms.
Then she started creating content that addressed girls and women, shedding light on the basics of economic independence and the first steps to establishing projects, opening doors to a multi-faceted dialogue on women’s rights, mental health, and ways to realising their dreams and targets.
Ahram Online: When did you become interested in the issue of Egyptian women's financial independence?
Hoda Rashad: The stage I went through in my life in which I needed to seek financial independence was a stage of many inaccurate concepts.
I learned through experience and by making mistakes and trying to correct them.
At that point I felt that girls and women could benefit from my narrative and experience, avoiding many of the pitfalls and misconceptions that I encountered.
AO: How do you tackle a rather complex and multifaceted problem in a way that appeals to all audiences?
HR: We have a real problem understanding women's economic independence, and I always emphasise that our goal should be independence, not dispensation.
Independence does not equal divorce, and it is not a war between a woman and a man.
My goal is always for the content I provide to be sane, balanced, and honest.
It is funny, for example, that when I got married the second time and announced it on my platform, I lost a good number of followers.
It was then that I realised we have a real problem understanding the idea of economic independence and success in work, and that this and the presence of men in the life of women or not are not correlated.
Financial independence is a lifestyle and a mindset, and achieving it must involve refuting many of our deeply rooted misconceptions.
AO: What are the laws and regulations that pose challenges to women in Egypt in this regard?
HR: I do not see that the obstacles are specific to the laws. On the contrary, the state encourages both genders in the field of entrepreneurship.
The real problem is society’s view and what women encounter along the journey.
Women are hindered either by direct speech, such as “she cannot do that,” or disguised in the form of discouragement and lack of support, especially those women who begin their journey of work and productivity later on in their lives.
AO: How do deeply rooted social concepts present challenges in this regard?
HR: The challenges are so difficult and the mountains are high.
Sometimes we need to train women on how to talk to their husbands about this for the first time.
Many men, fathers, and husbands do not understand. Women hear voices doubting their abilities all the time, but the winds of change are inevitably coming.
AO: Amid the challenges of the global economy, how can women think strategically in the short and long terms?
HR: I always stress that it is better not to pay attention or focus on negative thoughts and circumstances on which we have no control, and that it is better to focus on what one really aspires to accomplish and nurture one’s talents and skills.
True, circumstances play a role, but the techniques that we focus on teaching, such as dealing with marketing mechanisms, making profits and arranging ideas, are valid in all circumstances, whatever they are.
And we always focus on acquiring specific skills that help women become able to test models and make shifts to accommodate other ideas.
AO: How can art help raise the issue?
HR: Producing artistic works such as Finding Ola and Faten Amal Harbi was an indescribably positive step, whether in shedding light on our content or in general for women's issues.
I remember how I received many messages from girls and women who compared me to the role played by the star Khaled Al-Nabawi with Hend Sabry, which brought joy to my heart, as I felt I really extended a helping hand.
I applaud those responsible for such artistic works that back women and shed light on the real problems in society and raise awareness about them.
AO: To what extent do psychological dilemmas stand in the way of Egyptian women achieving their goals?
HR: Undoubtedly, I have experienced through my communication with many girls that problems such as depression, lack of security, and self-doubt can impede their endeavours.
Certain ideas are still rooted in our societies, including that the girl is raised on the concept that it is not important to learn how to support herself, and that it is inevitable and pivotal to depend on men in her life; father, brother, husband, etc.
Therefore, the woman grows up with a feeling in her subconscious that she cannot and does not have the talent and intelligence to achieve financial independence, even if she has to.
We have already started cooperating with life coaches to help women deal with this psychological turning point.
AO: Is change in the Egyptian mentality inevitably coming?
HR: School girls contact me to learn how to think economically in an orderly and fruitful manner and how to plan to achieve their independence from an early stage and start realising their projects and ideas.
All this confirms that winds of change are already blowing, and that the next generation has begun to realise, even if the current odds are not in their favour, that it is time for them to take matters into their own hands.