My Russian friend surprised me. Giving her my manuscript I was wondering what would be her feedback. How would she perceive the oppression, injustice and gender inequality Egyptian women are subject to and which was revealed in my novel? Her feedback was nothing that I had expected.
“Being Russian, I thought that our women were different in terms of independence and freedom of choice, however, this novel depicted how much similarities both our cultures bear. With every page that I read I felt a strong desire to rebel, to come out and address all the women that we all have a choice, we all have to take matters into our own hands and we all have to acknowledge the fact that the society isn’t everything.”
‘Similarities’? This was shocking. I thought that Religion and Traditions were the main reasons behind females oppression in Egypt. Reading my friend’s lines I started to see the matter differently. It wasn’t a cultural problem, it’s an international one, I figured out.
Discussing the subject with one of my virtual friends who lives in UK, she added: “I remember the equal pay struggle here in the 70’s when I was little and my mother was working.” Again, another perspective, the payment. Women get under paid for same jobs and same working hours. Why, because they are ‘women’.
Every time I think about women’s conditions I feel provoked. To act, to speak, to shout, to rebel. To address them and urge them to unleash their hidden strengths. Inquiring about domestic violence I was hit. According to the American Psychological Association, in 2015, the number of women who had experienced physical intimate partner violence surpassed the 38 millions. Almost 5 million women experience physical violence by an intimate partner every year. The association assumes that 70% of women worldwide will experience physical and/or sexual abuse during their lifetimes by no one but their intimate partner! What?
Why the hell having a partner from the first place if the chances are 70% to be subject to abuse? And the next data explains it all. In 98% of the cases, the number one reason domestic violence survivors stay or return to the abusive relationship is because the abuser controls their money supply, leaving them with no financial resources to break free.
I reject these facts. I was raised by a mother who chose to have dignity, who displayed a strong character and an intellectual mind. Who rarely used abusive words while raising us, her four daughters. I don’t accept it for women to accept oppression and abuse, and mostly for financial reasons. My mother was no hero. She made her choice to be well educated. Her summer time was spent reading books and nurturing her mind. Currently, in her elderly years, feeding her brain is her number one priority. She played no victim and showed courage in every single stage of her life. Claiming to be nothing special, only acting like how a free strong woman should act.
Anna, my Russian friend, summed it up in one word; ‘Submission’. “Throughout our lives, each one of us has this moment when we practice the submission of Gameela, the extreme of Mounira, followed by the spirituality of Fatma. These 3 ladies not only reveal a great deal about women in Egypt, but women in general. They mirror our actions, and at times they or their children voice what we don’t notice or we may never be told.”
It’s time to notice, to act instead of react, to take the lead, to say NO to every oppressor and to stand for our rights and most of all our dignity and pride.