Are our notions preconceived? 5 Women Shifting Social Norms in Egypt

It is very easy to carry certain inaccurate beliefs for the simple fact that we’ve held onto them for a long time, irrespective of whether or not they are based in reality, or more precisely, simply shadowed in “common sense.” For many people, sticking to certain ideas is easier than challenging them. After all, challenging them may disconcert everything they’ve been taught to believe since a young age. Questioning these ideas in the said presence of better ones, would ultimately force us to admit that our current ideas are not working out, that they no longer have a place in society, which is a realization not many are capable of reaching. But even though we have yet to reach a place where we are willing to replace our ideas with more informed ones, there are many women pushing this level of humility. Thanks to them, so many normalized ideas are being shaken and questioned. And even though we have a long way to go, these courageous individuals are paving the way for change, even for those who are too reluctant to support it. Here are five Egyptian women educating and pushing our society to see beyond what’s right in front of them.

Sabah Khodir 

Writer and women’s rights activist, Sabah Khodir, has been challenging societal norms in Egypt way before it was trendy. She is the co-founder of EndQuote, a collaborative art platform for Middle Eastern artists and she is one of the leading voices in the campaign against sexual harassment in Egypt. It is not just Khodir’s ferocity that enables her to influence her audience to reassess their thoughts, but the way she so eloquently structures her thoughts such as to push forward new ones. Despite being attacked by so many people who are uncomfortable with the ideas she puts forth, Khodir remains grounded and authentic to push for a much needed change in a society that resists it. Her main ideas revolve around women reclaiming their space and feeling safe and comfortable enough to do so. She does so through empathizing with women from her own experiences, as she says, “I’m kind to myself because I know other women are watching, and I want them to be kind to themselves, too.” Khodir has dedicated her life to supporting women who have suffered from all forms of abuse. Her own experiences with abuse have enabled her to help others by means of voicing that pain rather than silencing it. Her noise on social media has resulted in many revolutionary changes. What distinguishes Khodir from other fighters for change is her sensitivity, her intimate narrative of her experiences has made other women feel safe enough to share theirs. Khodir’s platform has reached a lot of people over the past two years, with most of her time spent educating and provoking dangerous ideas that are too sheltered in our society.

Mariam Naoum 

The screenwriter of ‘Khali Belak Men Zizi’ and ‘Leh La2’, Naoum is considered a leading social and feminist screenwriter and her work address the challenges of those who are marginalized both socially and economically with a special focus on women’s issues. Through her adoption of dramatic screenwriting, she is able to mirror our society by expressing powerful emotions on screen that are otherwise difficult to depict through writing. Her scripts focus on society’s oppression of women, such as female genital mutilation, early marriage, sexual harassment and violence against women. Her latest movie ‘Between Two Seas,’ which was a joint collaboration between the National Council for Women in Egypt and UN Women, sheds light on the many agonizing experiences Egyptian women undergo.

Ghadeer Ahmed 

Egyptian feminist, and author of “Abortion Tales,” Ghadeer Ahmed, shares the stories of women who had abortions. She explains that “[she] did not decide to gather these stories just to document them, or to shift public opinion on the question of abortion’s legal status in Egypt, and not even to make these women’s voices heard by decision-makers so that they can understand how women seeking abortion suffer from its criminalization … but to write these stories for women to know they are not the only one going through this experience, and whatever she feels is real, that it is her right to feel it that way and that she owns it all.” Ahmed’s empathetic approach has proven successful in how it impacts her audience’s opinions. She also sarcastically tackles societal “norms” to elicit a subtle impression of it being far from normal. Her most recent video tackled a comment from someone degrading her for her bra showing, and how a woman should not be stereotyped to fit into a certain standard of “respectable.” Her confidence and relentless ownership of her ideas are what give other women that same confidence to own their ideas and decisions too.

The Woman Behind This is mother being 

After following This is Mother Being for a while, it became shocking to see the number of incorrect ideas so many of her followers believe. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with being uneducated but simply highlighting the fact that she is taking part in bridging that knowledge is worth noting. This is Mother Being is the “leading the sexual and reproductive health awareness movement in the MENA region.” Though offering a variety of Arabic online classes for women regarding issues ranging from menstrual health to birth preparation, MOTHER BEING had taught over aa 1,000 women about their bodies and their rights. Her work is distinctive in the way it tackles very detailed issues. She is shameless in her approach and creates a space in which it is okay to talk about sexual and body-related issues. And by motivating women to own the way they feel about their bodies, she is giving them the courage to respect their needs and not undermine them for anyone.

Nadeen Ashraf: Assault Police

None other than the revolutionary Assault Police, who played a significant role over the past year in exposing many sexual harassers. She proactively worked hard to create a platform in which women can share their stories anonymously. Assault Police fights sexual violence in all its forms and by continuing to point out the wrong-doings that many people are too afraid to point out themselves. She is giving so many women the space to call someone out when their boundaries are being overstepped. Again and again, she educates women about their rights. And it is this very shared space in which women can relate to one another and help bring each other up towards the ladder of empowerment, that individuals like Nadeen Ashraf are making a lasting difference.

via NY Times

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