Laila al-Hinnawy (1939 – 2015) ..Years with Mama Laila

25-03-2015 06:17 PM

Nadia Barsoum



To commemorate Laila al-Hinnawy, Nadia Barsoum who since 1987 has been working closely with Ms Hinnawy and was her veritable right hand, edited a page in Ms Hinnawy’s honour in Watani’s 22 March issue. Participating in that page was Angele Reda who compiled material on the life and works of Ms Hinnawy.

Robeir al-Faris reviewed a book Risaala min Imra’a Maalouma (Letter from a Familiar Woman), published by Watani in March 2010 among its series Watani Books, that compiled a collection of Ms Hinnawy’s works. Faris writes that the material printed in the book, even though it was written over a span of some 50 years, is as fresh and timely today as when it was written. He categorises these works as issues that concern the woman on a personal level, on the family scale, in the work and career field, and as mother and child. Ms Hinnawy explored these various issues not as one who offers counselling, but as a sensitive woman who knows exactly how it feels to be caught in the middle of any of these issues. The reader gets the vivid feeling that Ms Hinnawy experienced the countless predicaments she wrote about in person or through the close, caring observation of the lives of other women.
Faris ends his review with: “Could such a pen be forever lost to us now that Mama Laila is no longer here? Never!”

Since I first set foot in Watani back in 1986, I was keen to meet the woman journalist I greatly admired and whose articles on women and family I avidly read, Laila al-Hinnawy. I found before me a beautiful, elegant woman with an engaging smile that warmed my heart. She was wise, practical, witty, and had a charming sense of humour.

I consider myself lucky to have had the chance to work with her. I started in 1987 and, contrary to the norm in most newspapers where struggles and harsh competition rule the day, I found Mama Laila welcoming and encouraging. She never imposed any style on me, but let me choose my own topics and write in my own way. But what really moved me was her constant praise and encouragement which prodded me to exert more effort to produce distinguished work. I used to feel wildly happy when that great lady journalist would insist on calling me to heap praise on a story or report I, a mere junior reporter then, had written.

When in the 2000s the Woman Page expanded to include a junior editorial team, Ms Hinnawy was elated. She would constantly call me, since I was responsible for supervising the young team, to check on their work and progress. She very generously agreed that we as senior editors of the page should reduce the material we write in order to give more space to the junior reporters.
Laila al-Hinnawy persisted in writing her column until her health declined in the recent months and she could no longer exert that effort. She always said: “If I don’t write, I’d die”. The Heavens obviously granted her wish.

Watani International
25 March 2015

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