Here is a collection of some of my writings, interviews or articles that highlight my work.
Articles & Features
Women in Egypt (For Eye on Egypt, 2010)
Drowning in alien images on satellite TV, bombarded by consumer goods,
and pressured by globalization, Egyptian society turns to its women to
preserve its “authenticity” and protect the community’s “inner domain” from
outside influences. Like it or not, Egyptian women find themselves at the
center of the country’s national identity.
In and outside the home, they represent the values of their families. How
they walk and talk, and who they walk and talk with, advertise their
fathers’, brothers’ and husbands’ social position. The length of their hems
and the styling of their hair, their clothing, baubles and bangles, instantly
identify their family’s socioeconomic status.
The core of Egyptian society is socially and religiously conservative—and,
above all, communal. Its family law codes dates back to 1920 are
unequivocally patriarchal; their basic premise being husbands will provide
for their families and wives will be subordinate to their wishes. Men have
an unconditional right to divorce. Women must have court approval to
terminate the marriage, usually granted only if they relinquish all financial
rights – including their dowry or prove that their husbands have been
abusive—an almost impossible feat.
Meanwhile, social pressure and the religious establishment perpetuate
strict gender-based divisions of roles citing the tradition that women have
the right to demand their husbands provide for them and their children, to
keep their own income and earnings for personal use, and to receive
money from their husbands when they fulfill their motherly responsibilities.
In reality, a large percentage of men are unemployed and women are
increasingly working outside the home. Field studies in poor
neighborhoods indicate that 40-50% of women are engage in some kind of
income generating activity. While their cottage industries have shrunk,
women still participate in the informal sales economy (bread, vegetables,
household goods) and work in the family businesses (repair shops,
grocery stalls, cell-phone stores).
Education is a barrier to women’s working in the formal sector. Although
96% of Egyptian children begin school at age six, only 20% remain by the
age of 15. Most of those who drop out come from poor families who need
older children to earn money for the family. Girls who are responsible for
vital household duties – babysitting sibling, preparing meals, and
collecting water – drop out of school more often than boys. Overcrowded
classrooms and lack of suitable bathrooms are especially discouraging.
Change is coming, albeit like many in changes in Egypt, very slowly.
Women were granted the right to divorce in 2002. Shortly later, Egyptian
women married to non-Egyptians were allowed to pass on their nationality
to their children and husbands can no longer prevent their wives travelling
Public institutions including the Ministry of Justice is working to reform
personal status laws and the family court procedures and, civil society
organizations such as the National Council of Women and other women's
groups, continue to demand the reinterpretation of shari'a law (a legal
framework based on Islamic principles) to liberalize the status of women.
Change is also coming to the streets. A recent case of sexual harassment
like those once dismissed with a nod and a wink was met with three years of hard
labor for the offending and offensive young man.