Ahlam Habib G. Shenouda was inspired to a career in interpretation and translation in the 1960s, as the field became increasingly global and necessary for work with other countries. Born in Egypt, she studied at St. Mary’s English School in Cairo, obtaining a general education certificate, which was administered by the University of Oxford in England. She then joined the American University in Cairo, earning a bachelor’s degree in literature with a minor in economics. Embarking on her career with the Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Organization in Cairo, she garnered considerable experience in Arab, Afro-Asian and international affairs. As a conference translator, Ms. Shenouda’s work involved extensive travel, which was a highly informative and rewarding experience, and she was also responsible for editing the organization’s publications in English.
In 1967, Ms. Shenouda was promoted to head the newly founded secretariat of the Afro-Asian Writers’ Organization in Cairo, where she was responsible for the publication of their periodical, Afro-Asian Writings, in English, Arabic and French. Three years later, she and her husband, the late Youssef Shenouda, an expert on African affairs, relocated to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, for his work with the Organization of African Unity (OAU), a time she recalls fondly today. They came to the United States in 1973 when her husband was transferred to the OAU Secretariat Mission to the United Nations. Living in New York, Ms. Shenouda was the press and information officer for the Egyptian Mission to the United Nations from 1977 to 1981, where she developed a daily round-up of media reports on the Middle East, which became a vital informative tool for the Egyptian-Israeli talks that resulted in the 1980 Peace Accords.
Ms. Shenouda joined The World Bank Group as a translator in 1981. Rising to the positions of senior translator and then reviser, she was appointed as a unit chief in the Arabic language program from 1986 to 1989. In 1989, her position was upgraded to section chief of the language services division, and she remained in that role until sought early retirement in 1996 to take care of her health following a fibromyalgia diagnosis. Very passionate about her work, Ms. Shenouda is incredibly gratified to have achieved the position of section chief with the language services division, which was equivalent to a grade 14 position on the government job scale. She was the first Middle Eastern woman to ever hold that position within The World Bank at that time.
Holding considerable expertise in translation, editing, management, economics and international affairs, Ms. Shenouda always found incredible enthusiasm and joy in her work. During her tenure with The World Bank, she was responsible for managing the Arabic language program, which involved translation between English and Arabic to facilitate communication with the Arab-speaking member countries and working with the bank staff who dealt with those countries. She also handled the editing and translation of various bank policies. She notes that it could be a particular challenge at times to translate the terminology that was hyper-specific to The World Bank and their development of strategies, concepts and other requirements.
Remaining active in her retirement through a variety of charitable endeavors, Ms. Shenouda has been involved with the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., for many years, having been a member since 1989. She is also a regular financial contributor to roughly 20 charities on both national and international levels. In her free time, she enjoys playing bridge with her friends. Ms. Shenouda has no immediate goals for her future other than helping others and doing good. She is incredibly content with her life.
Attributing much of her success to her Christian faith, background in international affairs, hard work, resilience and problem solving skills, Ms. Shenouda also credits her dedication, resourcefulness and straightforwardness for all she has achieved over the course of her career. She was always spoken highly of in her work, and her division chief at The World Bank credited her as a gifted translator as well as “a serious woman, [who] says what she means and means what she says.” She has strived to leave a legacy as someone who her peers would consider to be a loving, kind and considerate person. Furthermore, Ms. Shenouda is gratified, both personally and professionally, that her legacy in the field has been recognized with her induction into Marquis Who’s Who.