Feature

In the cradle of Egypt’s revolution, women will no longer be silenced

In the cradle of Egypt’s revolution, women will no longer be silenced

Egyptian women marching for their rights at a recent protest

Nadine Saleh has spent most of her life wishing that she could walk down the streets of Cairo without fear of being sexually harassed. By the end of 2010, she had all but given up hope. And then came the January 25 revolution.

Nadine was 14 years old when her parents first told her that she could not go to the local store in an up-scale Cairo neighbourhood alone. But on January 26 2011, the 21-year-old university student snuck out and headed to Tahrir Square with her best friend.

“I realized that the power for change is within us,” says Nadine enthusiastically, “it was time for our voices to be heard.”

Despite the passion shown by hundreds of thousands of Egyptians during Egypt’s 18-day revolution, women’s rights have taken a back-seat. Amid recent reports that 83 percent of women in Egypt have been sexually harassed, Egyptian officials have continued to ignore women’s rights. Last week, the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s ruling-party, issued a strongly worded statement, sharply criticizing a UN declaration calling for the end of violence against women and girls.

“Egyptian streets are free of sexual harassment” reads the graffiti. Graffiti has become a popular form of self-expression following the 2011 revolution.

Last month, several Islamist lawmakers, including Adel Abdel Maqsoud Afifi, declared that female protesters bear “100 percent” responsibility for being sexually harassed.”

“The Islamists who blame women [for being sexually harassed] cannot see clearly,” explains Nadine, “it is their mothers, their daughters and their sisters…they are the ones being sexually abused and they are the ones who live in fear.”

Yara El-Razaz, a 20-year-old student at the American University in Cairo and the co-founder of Heya agrees with Nadine. Heya (which translates into ‘she’ in Arabic) is a women’s initiative founded in 2011 which aims to empower Egyptian women in every community across the country.

“Women make up half of the population [in Egypt],” says Yara, “every time we deprive a woman from reaching her full potential we are depriving our entire country from reaching its full potential.”

Addressing violence against women following the revolution, Yara asserts that the voices of Egyptian women no longer fall on deaf ears.

“Millions of women continue to face various forms of sexual abuse today, be it in the street, the workplace or at school,” says Yara, “Heya and many other initiatives, organizations and advocacy groups formed both before and after the revolution are working towards creating a more equitable future for women in Egypt.”

“Control your sons not your daughters.”

Videos of women being dragged and stripped by security forces and images of female reporters being sexually assaulted by men at Tahrir Square have not deterred Nadine from joining women’s initiatives at her university in Cairo and participating in seven protests.

“It was difficult to simply let go of my dream of an Egypt where I could feel safe just because a bunch of ignorant men want to try to steal our voices,” she says while fiddling with a heart-shaped locket around her neck containing a black and white picture of her grandmother.

“My grandma would tell me of how she used to wear dresses, swim at Alexandria’s beaches, and take public transport to university without once feeling unsafe…that is the Egypt I dream of and that is the Egypt I will continue to fight for.”

The interviewee, Nadine Saleh, is an alias. Due to safety concerns, Nadine wished that her identity remain concealed.

Egypt reaches a new 'high'
Heya Initiative

Subscribe to our newsletter


More in Feature

01ea6fda4ec705de1f0d8307df4aad284af86e9fad1a6e2ae0a0f14630297bf5

Meet the Company Redefining Egypt’s Health Insurance Market

Enas El MasryDecember 4, 2016
13920532_1736726203248967_2577116043429050990_o

Making #HerStory Matter: Promoting Gender Equality on Arabic Wikipedia

Egyptian StreetsNovember 27, 2016
ahmed saied

‘We Made Chess Out of Soap’: Exclusive Interview with Released Political Prisoner Ahmed Saied

Aya NaderNovember 23, 2016
Students watch a movie being projected in the playground

The Oromo in Egypt: Why Have 11,000 Ethiopians Fled Their Homeland?

Nada NaderNovember 15, 2016
Trump at an early campaign event in New Hampshire on June 16, 2015. Photo by Michael Vadon

Egyptian Expats Weigh in on Trump Victory, Express Fear of Rhetoric

Aswat MasriyaNovember 12, 2016
An employee counts money at an exchange office in downtown Cairo
Credit: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/ Reuters

Timeline: The Egyptian Pound Over the Last Five Decades

Aswat MasriyaNovember 3, 2016
Photo courtesy of Blue Ocean PR

The Four Pillars of Happiness: Egyptian Lifestyle Consultant Discusses Wellness

Salma El SaeedNovember 2, 2016
pablo-breast-cancer

How You Can Help the 45,000 Egyptian Women Diagnosed With Breast Cancer Each Year

Egyptian StreetsOctober 31, 2016
Egyptian Streets is an independent, young, and grass roots news media organization aimed at providing readers with an alternate depiction of events that occur on Egyptian and Middle Eastern streets, and to establish an engaging social platform for readers to discover and discuss the various issues that impact the region.

© 2016 ES Media UG. All Rights Reserved.