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#EndSH (End Sexual Harassment) – What Men Say to Men Who Harass Women on the Streets (Video)

June 13th, 2012 No comments

Let’s forget about the statistics

Although, if you need them, they’re available

…because even one woman harassed is too high.

Where is the respect?

Where is the decency?

Where is our unity to fight against sexual harassment?

Enough with the victim-blaming

Enough with the victim-shaming

Where is that day when women used to live freely—

walking on the streets, alone or with friends

at any time of day or night

wearing what she pleased—without being harassed or attacked?

It is only recently that humanity turned their cheek the other way

Where only some who are brave enough,

speak out and fight against this subjugation of women.

It takes both men and women to stand together against harassment of women.

 

It starts with people like the men in the video, but it does not end there.

What Men Say to Men Who Harass Women on the Streets

كلام بيقولوا رجالة للي بيعاكسوا البنات في الشارع

 

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Human Chain Protest against Sexual Harassment

May 16th, 2012 No comments

Activist holding up sign at anti-sexual harassment protest in Cairo. It reads, "Don't get yourself insulted because you harass a girl."

I volunteered with an independently organized initiative by Egyptians—holding up signs with statements against sexual harassment. There were roughly thirty volunteers, both women, (some in hijabs) alongside men standing on a street in Doqqi (Gameat al-Dowal), Cairo, forming a human chain. This street was chosen due to the large number of incidences that occur in the area. Some of our signs said, “I want to walk on the street without hearing words that hurt me,” and “I’d like to ride a bike without getting harassed.” Speaking to a fellow male protestor to the right of me, he said, “This is a new thing for us. We can see how actions like this can create change.”

There were mixed reactions from passing vehicles—mostly positive. There were some “thumbs up” and positive nods from passing drivers, including taxi and bus drivers, even though some may stereotype against them. There were drivers who asked which political party we supported, even though this issue has nothing to do with politics. Another driver yelled to a male protester, “Go home and study.” Another male driver claimed that harassment happens because of the way women dress. Aside from the negative comments, it was encouraging to see men on motorbikes saying, “alkalam sah.” (What you said is right.)

The aim of this event was to address sexual harassment on the streets of Cairo, and have people discussing this. There were a few confrontations including one I had with a man, who said, “This is Egypt!” I told him, I’m from New York and this also happens there, so it is not a matter of where you are and therefore, one can excuse it.  Another comment made was how you can never end it.  BUT, you can lessen the number of cases that occur.  Sexual harassment is not an inherent trait to people (they are not born with this trait)–people learn it and see how socially acceptable it is–through media, by people not speaking out against it and a lack of education (i.e. some people don’t think saying/whispering things to girls is harassment).  Sexual harassment is a problem on multiple levels—there’s no single way of tackling this, but initiatives like these are important to have people realizing that our voices will not be silenced.

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Change

December 19th, 2011 No comments

When I first arrived to Cairo, people asked me if I could see any changes, post-revolution.  All I could answer was “no, I don’t see any visible changes, except a lot of revolution street art and people being more open about talking politics.”  But, even these things existed before the revolution in a lesser capacity.  However, yesterday I realized there are no real changes vis-a-vis this revolution except that Mubarak is gone (though his people and supporters are still here) and the Muslim Brotherhood is allowed to run for seats under their official name.

 

The protestors did not just one day decide they will go to Tahrir because they want to end corruption, create jobs, establish freedoms and justice, etc.  They have always felt this way.  These demands were not born on January  25th; protestors took the opportunity to put an end to Mubarak’s regime beginning that day.  The success of the revolution depends on the majority of people believing in justice and freedom and changing their institutions–without violence.

 

Last night, I went to a local market with my friends and asked a young, female Egyptian seller what she thought about the Egyptian woman who was stripped and beaten in Tahrir just two days ago by the military police.  She told us that she deserved it because she had no business going there.  Wow, she just slapped me in my face.  How can she believe that it was “her fault” because she is a “bad girl?”  This is similar to blaming a rape victim, instead of the rapist.  Why is it that we must find how who and what type of person he or she is before saying is such treatment is justified?  If she is a prostitute or a “bad girl,” then it is okay for a woman to be beaten until unconscious?  Or if she is not a virgin, it is okay to sexually assault or rape her.   The virginity tests last March showed how some people justified sexually violating women if they are not virgins.

 

I do not care if she is a “good” or “bad” girl; no one deserves such inhumane treatment.  Why must there be a reason to act humanely or inhumanely? The bewab (doorman) of my building said that she should not have beaten like that because since “maybe her husband needed to work and she went to replace the man at Tahrir.”  When did protesting against injustice and freedom become a “man’s thing?”  And why do we need to profile women to justify what treatment they should get?  (It sounds odd to say, but thank God she was wearing a hijab, otherwise, it would have been “justified” to beat her.)  And if we want to use the “modesty argument,” are not women here supposed to be “protected” especially if they are wearing hijab?  So what is the reason for why she was stripped and beaten until unconscious?  Was she threatening the military’s “power?”  An Egyptian male argued how we do not know why the military beat her and gave the excuse that maybe she was burning and destroying buildings.  He claimed, if men and women deserve equal rights, then she was beaten how men have been beaten.  If she was a so-called “criminal,” you can arrest her and put her on trial.  This is all part of justice.  But no, the military police do not care about justice or treating women with the respect and rights they deserve, especially when they and their supporters are the very people who use religion to argue women must cover to protect their “modesty.”  That was some protection.  It is ironic that the State and supporters of this violence against women believe that the State will protect “women” when clearly, that is not happening.

 

Back to change.  Nothing will change in this country if the majority of people continue to blame the victim.  Nothing will change if people profile women as “bad or good girls” to justify what treatment they deserve.  This is not justice.  An Egyptian male talked about how there are “foreign elements” that are ruining any progress this country is making.  There are no “foreign elements” except the military police that are acting like the real thugs.  The military police justifies their abuse of power by arguing they are securing the country and protecting the people from thugs (who are burning and destroying buildings).  I agree that violence is not the solution to any problem.  SCAF is practicing brutal violence against innocent people and it must be ended.  And people need to stop making excuses so that responsibility falls on “outside elements,” but acknowledge that maybe there is something very wrong with the country’s military police that needs to be addressed.

 

Change will not happen now or in a few years.  Change will not happen through institutions or political systems.  Change will happen when there is a change in people’s mind-sets.

 

Link to video of woman in Tahrir being beaten by military police on December 17, 2011. http://youtu.be/4iboFV-yeTE

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My Return to Cairo

August 15th, 2011 No comments

I’m off to Cairo in a week and will be returning after 15 months since I ended my study abroad program at the American University in Cairo in May 2010. Since my return to the U.S., I’ve embarked on an internship with an NGO in Washington D.C. for summer of 2010, returned to Dickinson College to finish my B.A. in Middle East Studies and began working with Pearson Inc. (the parent-company of the Financial Times, Pearson Education and Penguin Publishing) as a Diversity Communications Specialist for Diversity and Inclusion. My last day of work will be on Friday and will be flying out Monday. Working for Pearson has allowed me to think about diversity and inclusion in a more structured more way, especially since we should be thinking about diversity and inclusion in our day-to-day lives and not just at work. But sometimes, to have people thinking about topic of diversity and inclusion, it needs to begin somewhere. I hope to take the knowledge I’ve gained while working for Diversity and Inclusion with me to Cairo, as I begin my Master’s in Gender and Women’s Studies in hopes to always work for diversity and inclusion.

Gender equality is a topic that I hope to gain perspective through the people of Egypt. I’ve come to learn how people think about gender issues in the U.S. (from the student perspective and NGO perspective to the corporate perspective). It is important to frame a discourse through the perspective of who is discussing it. The “people” of anywhere is quite diverse and we cannot generalize the “people” of any group. It doesn’t work in schools, it doesn’t work in religions and it doesn’t work in corporations.

I will also be beginning my research as a Fulbright student on the topic of sexual harassment in Cairo. It’s important to say that I must remain an activist through research only. I want to learn about how women’s rights organizations are fighting against sexual harassment and building coalitions with community members. I am excited to see the changes that have taken place since the Egyptian Revolution. I’ve read blogposts about how the spirit of those who participated in Tahrir was left there. I certainly hope that is not the case. What has taken place in Egypt has inspired those around the world. But any change must be dealt with diligence so that it is sustainable. It is also not just about protesting in the streets, but undertaking responsibilities required for a sustainable change.

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