by Iman Bibars
2nd July 2019

Generation Share: The change-makers building the Sharing Economy by Benita Matofska and Sophie Sheinwald is out this month. The book takes readers on a journey around the globe to meet the people who are changing and saving lives by building a Sharing Economy. Iman Bibars is 57 years old and from Egypt. She created the first micro-credit programme in the Arab world, to upskill women and provide them with ID cards.

Wanting to change the world was not common in Egyptian culture. I went into the poorest areas, where the women ‘waste pickers’ were collecting garbage. I wanted to work with them as they have nothing. If their husband dies, leaves them, or disappears, they either have to get remarried or become a prostitute and the kids become destitute. They have no choice. I wanted to help them have a choice.

In 1984, I started the first micro-credit programme in the Arab world. Previously, if you were setting up a micro-credit program, a man had to be the guarantor. We didn’t want women to depend on men, we wanted women to guarantee each other. People said, ‘Women will not be able to repay the loans; they have no ID cards.’ So for the first ten years, we gave micro-credit with no guarantee, no down payment and the women did not have to be literate. Every single woman paid us back.

Not having an identity card means these women don’t legally exist. They come from rural areas, they don’t go to school, they’re not registered with the government, they get married under age, are put on their husband’s ID, he leaves and she no longer exists. Eighty per cent of women in slum areas at that time did not have ID. It took us a long time to find out how to get ID for someone who doesn’t have ID. We demonstrated that women are credible. In comparison to men, 99% of women repay, whereas 80% of men don’t pay back.

Now, 97% of women in the country have ID. This kind of sharing changed their lives. We gave women the opportunity not to marry the guy who’s going to kick their kids or not become a sex worker, that’s empowering. Now women can become an owner of a supermarket, they do not have to die of poverty, sell their kids or their kidneys.

Gender is about power relations. As women, we have participated in a 9 to 5 work ecosystem; in reality that’s a male thing. So women have to compete with them with their rules. Women have shared but men haven’t. We talk about reproductive rights; I say, we are reproducing the community, the armies, the ministers and the government. Pregnancy and taking care of kids should be a public not a private matter.

We work twice as hard to achieve anything as women. Even in the West we don’t get the same salaries as men. Sharing is the only way to empower vulnerable groups. What’s needed is equal sharing from both genders, which has not happened up to now; women are better at sharing than men.

Generation Share by Benita Matofska and photographer Sophie Sheinwald will be published on June 17th to celebrate Global Sharing Week. Order here for £20.00.

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Image Credit: Sophie Sheinwald