Women In My Country of Egypt
“In my country, girls are a shame, it is a shame to make gestures, to argue, to love and it is a shame to rebel.
In my country, girls could create a paradise for themselves; they could be a light.
In my country, girls can shout but only through screens. In my country, girls are allies… a girl in my country is chivalrous; she could be worth one thousand men.
In my country, girls are aware of what happens around them in every moment. Yes they are repressed by orders but they feel free, although at any moment all this could turn to be a mirage in front of them.
In my country, girls are living inside a mist. Girls of my country are beautiful; girls of my country are as beautiful as songs; girls of my country are a source of energy but instead they are oppressed and sad. Girls of my country are beautiful birds but their wings are broken.
It is even hard for them to complain…. Girls in my country feel freedom but only from a place within… It is difficult for girls in my country to voice their feelings…. In my country girls are a laugh, and tenderness adheres to their faces…. In my country girls are happiness and hope is in their song…. In my country, girls dream but their dreams are afar.
Yes, this isn’t about every girl, but this is a silent reality in Upper Egypt”.
I chose to start this article with the poem of the Egyptian poetess Marwa Gmal El Deen, because it’s a clear depiction of the life of an Egyptian woman. Girls in Egypt and most of the Middle Eastern countries suffer in many ways, and one of the most important issues, from my point of view, is illiteracy. In Egypt, more than 64 percent of women are uneducated, and this rate continues to increase as a result of poverty. Most families in the countryside and Upper Egypt prevent girls from getting an education because they don’t have enough money to educate them, although free education in the governmental schools is an option. They refuse to educate girls because having them work instead would help the family financially. Many people think that if girls were to be educated, they will rebel and refuse to follow family orders. One of these orders is to get married while she is a child. When I was thirteen years old, some of my classmates got married and this is considered normal for our culture. To be honest, they were very happy because they had their own families now. Also, they got pregnant, yet they continued going to school till they finished high school. Most of the women in the countryside believe that being protected by the shadow of a man is better than being protected by a wall. In my opinion, sometimes it is actually better to have a wall as protection than a man. I know some girls who got married when they were seventeen and eighteen years old. After getting married and having babies, their husbands discarded them and took the children because these young ladies are not financially stable or the women wanted to increase their chances of getting married a second time. Many of them would go on to marry men that are 20 years older than them. People still believe that having a boy is better than having a girl. Some men strongly insist on having a boy so they marry more than once until they get a boy. There are many problems considering marriage that girls face. Some parents force their girls to get married because of money. I know many girls who got married to men from the Golf countries because they are rich and then they left them two months later. Unfortunately this is a reality because most girls that do this are poor and cannot get in contact with him.
Another problem often more detrimental than a lack of education is poverty. Some families prevent their girls from going to school because it is unacceptable in society or because they need the girl to work and bring in an income. Two of my cousins suffered from this problem. One of them is crippled and she had to work to help her father, but when she grew up she realized that it is very important to get educated and she decided to go to centers of literacy. She was very happy because she can read and write and felt that she is different from the girls of her village, especially since she doesn’t have a chance at getting married. She insisted on asserting her separate identity so she decided to travel to another governorate and work there. Now she works in a school, although they do not pay well there because of the financial problems that the country faces but she is happy. I am very proud of her. Many women in Egypt are single mothers, because they either got divorced or are widowed. It is not that easy to get another chance at marriage, so they have to find a job. It is not that easy for women to find jobs with a respectable salary. The rate of unemployment here in Egypt is very high. In Cairo and in the cities, you will find many women begging. Many children are forced to leave school to become beggars or peddlers as well.
Another harsh reality for girls in Upper Egypt and the countryside is circumcision. Some men refuse to marry women who are not circumcised. Because of this issue, women force their girls to get circumcised as a way of getting married. This process could lead to death in some cases. In my country men and women are oppressing girls and they grow to oppress each other.
Our religion, Islam, gives women the same rights as those of men; both of them are equals. In Islam, parents have to deal with their children equally. If they have the ability to teach their boys they have to teach their girls. Islam deals with women as human beings. Allah does not differentiate between men and women. Even in the Koran, the sacred book of Muslims, there is a chapter called “An-Nisa’” Women. In our religion, those men who have girls and deal with them tenderly, Allah gives them protection from hell. In our religion, men should take care of women and protect their rights.
Our society needs to treat women and girls as human beings not as objects or as bodies that are owned and transferred from their father’s house to their husband’s house to perform certain roles that society assumes that they were only created to do. People in the Middle East should know the importance of educating women and because they are responsible for setting an example for the future generations of girls and women. Moreover, the government should take care of women who are not able to survive and who have disabilities. If the government chooses to support the oppression of women in the Middle East, the countries will continue to suffer. Women deserve to be supported by resources, educated and empowered to take action in their countries. This is my hope and prayer.