Every time she heard someone saying that she should be doing something else, Caroline Amasis Maher’s determination grew and she trained even harder. She ignored the naysayers and the cultural barriers by not only playing a male-dominated sport but also excelling in it. Recently she became the first Arab-African female to be inducted into the Taekwondo Hall of Fame – the highest and most prestigious award in the sport. This meteoric rise to the top makes her extremely proud. In 2011, Caroline was ranked 11th on the World Taekwondo Federation’s World Athlete Ranking.
She credits her success to a strong family, who did everything to support her dreams of becoming a sports icon. But her ambitions didn’t stop there, and neither did her dreams. The 20-year-old Egyptian journalism graduate is currently pursuing her MBA and working for Helm, an NGO that assists people with disabilities so that one day they can all have an education, job opportunities and take part in sports – and make their dreams a reality too.
What do you think have been the most important factors that have helped in getting you where you are today?
The first factor was my family, specifically my mother. She supported me step-by-step. Whenever I was letting go, she pushed me to continue, especially in the field of sports. My family sacrificed a lot for me and they changed their lifestyle. If I did not belong to this family and did not have these parents, I would not be where I am today.
What were some of the biggest obstacles to reaching where you are today?
The way the culture and the society perceive what I am doing and underestimate it; this is my only obstacle right now.
Tell us a bit about your childhood, your ambitions and who inspired or influenced you to be who you are today?
I cannot remember my childhood before starting Taekwondo. Starting at 10, my life was full of activities, travelling and studying, trying to balance all of this.
Concerning my ambitions, I am very interested in working with people with disabilities and I aim that one day they will live a normal life in their own country, which includes education, sports and job opportunities. I cannot specify a certain person who inspired me as I met a lot of inspiring people. God gives every person a specific talent in which he/she excels and I look up to exceling people in different fields.
Being a woman, has that affected your road to where you are today, and how?
Honestly, my parents were always supportive and that helped me a lot. Being a woman did not affect my journey; however, the society perceives that I should be doing something else. Sometimes they believe that I should be starting a family instead of doing what I am doing but I believe that everything comes at the right time and it’s not about the time, it’s about the person.
How do you cope being one of the few women in your area of work, which is predominately male?
When I first joined the Egyptian national team, the focus was not given to female players due to the belief that they are going to stop at a young age to get married and raise a family. Yet as I started to excel and prove my determination and dedication, achieving a lot of awards, much more attention has been given to me and other female players.
What do you believe is you greatest contribution, to society/community?
I felt I am giving back to the community by raising the Egyptian flag in the 38 different countries that I have travelled to and through my work at “Helm” [an NGO that is being registered]. Fighting for the rights of people with disabilities makes me feel that I am paying back society. It fills me with positive energy and encourages me to do more good things.
What is your main message for the younger generation? What should they learn from your experience?
They have to follow their passion. That’s how they are going to excel. My mother always used to telling me: “Nothing is impossible; you can be anything you dream of.”
What is your message for other women/girls who may be inspired by your journey and achievements?
Regardless the extent of the barriers and obstacles you might be facing from society and the community, never stop fighting for your dreams and paving the way for other women too.