Why are you with the uprising of women in the Arab world? The responses from women-and men-across not just the Arab but the entire world are varied, tearful, defiant, comical, sad and strong. Their reasons shouldn’t exist.
My response: “I’m with the Uprising of Women in the Arab World because I want to one day live in my husband’s country (Egypt) and be able to go outside whenever I want without a bodyguard I don’t want to hide myself; it’s our right to go WHEREVER WE WANT TO GO!”
Back in July in “Yella al-bint” I reported on the popular Facebook page ‘The Uprising of Women in the Arab World,’ an ingenious page created by Lebanese flamenco dancer Yalda Younes and several other feminists. The page has since achieved great fame in world news-articles have appeared in HuffPost and Courrier International, a French website- thanks to it’s photo campaign, “I’m with the Uprising of Women in the Arab world because….” The campaign has generated a plethora of responses, of photos of women and men holding up paper placards, pieces of cardboard, even their computers, detailing why they believe in women’s rights in the Middle East.
My response has to do with my time spent in Egypt and how I was never allowed outside without someone accompanying me. The two times I had to go somewhere and there was absolutely no one to drive me, my husband had to interview taxi drivers til he found one he trusted. Having to depend on others and not be able to decide when you want to go out was something I found completely intolerable and not fair. Just because I’m a woman i should be able to walk down the street dressed however I want, whether in a tank top or skirt, and not be harassed. The only time I walked alone in a street in Zamalek, it was simultaneously thrilling as my tourist instincts kicked in-let’s explore!-but at the same time, I almost felt scared, because I’d been lead to believe it was not safe for me to do.
It is amazing the amount of responses generated, how many people stand in solidarity. Arabs know how to use social networking websites to protest and debate, and this is a great example: people from Syria to Iraq to Italy, whether wearing headscarves burqas, running shorts or skintight shirts, standing in their bedrooms, balconies or friends, display their messages to the world. We can learn a lot about the status of women’s rights throughout the Arab world, as well as what women there are thinking. But one thing for sure is that the women in this campaign are all two things: strong and intelligent. Aywa, yella ya bint!
Bahrain: Giving Aid
In Bahrain, there has been progress for women in this Arab kingdom: His Royal Highness Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa and the Civil Service Bureau (CBS) have ushered in an initiative that will increase female government workers’ bonuses of BD20 to BD150. It’s supposed to be “fair,” and while equal pay would be truly fair, I applaud the Bahraini government for their actions.
Filming Sexual Harassment in Egypt
However, the best news for women in the past month has been the Egyptian government’s announcement that they will be installing cameras at busy intersections and streets in order to capture the rampant sexual harassment that takes place on Cairene streets. What’s really surprising is that the images will be aired on state-run television channels, kind of like an Egyptian version of Dateline’s To Catch a Predator. The fact that the government is going out of it’s way to shame men-men!-is a victory in itself for Egyptian women, even if it doesn’t really curtail sexual harassment.
Any victory for women, Arab or not, is significant, regardless of it’s size. And women are protesting up in droves. Yella al-bint!