"…I never again want to see the face of a starving child or hear the weeping of a mother who has lost her son to war. Peace, this is what my husband gave his life for, and I want the world to know that he did not die in vain. Peace, this is what will make me very happy." – Jehan Sadat
Jehan Sadat was born in Cairo, Egypt. When she was fifteen, she met Anwar Sadat who had been recently released from prison where he had been confined for many years because of his fierce resistance of the British occupation of Egypt. On May 29, 1949, Jehan married Anwar Sadat, thus beginning a journey that would last for more than thirty-two years with a man who would become the President of Egypt, and would change the course of history not just for the Middle East, but also for the world.
One of Mrs. Sadat's first projects was Talla Society, a cooperative which made it possible for village women to learn a skill that would enable them to earn their own money which in turn paved the way for them to become more self-sufficient and to contribute the financial welfare of their families. The Talla Society began with Mrs. Sadat’s dream and a small group of women who were eager and willing to work at twenty-five sewing machines in an abandoned building.
In 1975, she was head of the Egyptian delegation to the United Nations International Women’s Conference in Mexico City and later, the Egyptian delegations to the UN Women’s Conference in Copenhagen and the United Nations Decade of Women in New York. She founded the African-Arab Women’s League, and has hosted and participated in, and is still participating in, countless conferences and seminars concerning women’s issues, children’s welfare, literacy, and peace in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America.
Mrs. Sadat established the Wafa’ Wa Amal (Faith and Hope) Society in Egypt in 1972, which has constructed and now operates a fully integrated city for handicapped war veterans and civilians, complete with clinics, rehabilitation centers, national training programs, and recreation areas. Wafa' Wa Amal is the first and largest rehabilitation center of its kind in the Middle East.
In 1977, after visiting several S.O.S. Villages of Austria, Mrs. Sadat initiated the idea of SOS Children's Villages in Egypt, offering needy orphans the opportunities to lead normal family lives. She is a long-time national and international advocate of legal reform on behalf of family issues and women's eauality, and has founded or headed many organizations and charitable associations, including the Egyptian Blood Bank and the Egyptian Society for Cancer patients.
Mrs. Sadat firmly believes that “The most precious capital any country can have is an educated citizenry.” She, therefore, promotes education, learning, in all aspects and stages of life, particularly for women, as the major way for any nation to achieve lasting economic, social, and political equality.
After receiving her own baccalaureate degree with honors in Arabic Literature, she earned a masters degree, also with honors, and a doctorate degree in Comparative Literature from Cairo University in 1980 and 1986, respectively.
Following the assassination of President Sadat on October 6, 1981, the deeply aggrieved young widow retreated from public life, her beloved projects, and her teaching position at Cairo University. Following a period of grief and uncertainty, she resumed her role as educator, lecturer, and social activist, promoting the women’s rights and international peace. Her first book, A Woman of Egypt, recounts her notable life as the First Lady of Egypt.
Jehan Sadat has righteously carried forth her husband’s messages of peace and world understanding. Currently, Mrs. Sadat is Associate Resident Scholar at the University of Maryland where The Anwar Sadat Chair for Development and Peace was established and fully endowed in 1997 to honor her husband's legacy.
Today, Jehan Sadat’s mission is to maintain her husband’s legacy, keeping alive his memory so that future generations will know that Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat was a “man of peace.” At the same time, she continues to deliver her own views concerning the rights of women, the importance of the family, the new world order and the war in Iraq and the pursuit of world peace.