Tag Archives: Egypt

Egypt’s Women: Uncensored

New Grantee: The BuSSy Project

By Spark Fellow Kendra Hyett

In modern Egypt, traditions limit women’s contact with men via practices such as veiling and gender segregation at schools, work, and recreational activities. To simply walk down the street, girls and women have to put up with abuse running from verbal to physical. The Thomson Reuters Foundation’s Women’s Rights Poll in 2013 even determined Egypt to be the worst out of 22 Arabs states for women due to high rates of sexual harassment, high rates of female genital cutting, a surge in violence and Islamist feelings after the Arab Spring uprisings, plus discriminatory laws and a spike in trafficking.

Since then, the first step has been made legally to end sexual harassment in Egypt with a new law in 2014 criminalizing sexual harassment for the first time in modern Egyptian history.

But still, a troubling trend has inflicted Egyptian society for some time—young Egyptian women and men are bound by the barriers of gender-segregating traditions and practices, social taboos, stereotypes, and other cultural norms that leave a narrow space for open expression and opportunity to challenge the status quo. The BuSSy Project seeks to break away from these confines, giving those living in this traditional society his or her own opportunity at a story, a face, a voice.

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The BuSSy Project is a performing arts group based in Cairo, Egypt that seeks to provide open and uncensored spaces for young women to candidly and anonymously share their personal experiences with a range of social issues, with a larger campaign to raise awareness about the different, and often unreported, facets of Egyptian society through storytelling.

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BuSSy’s storytelling workshops expose real women’s stories and provide a space for free expression on issues that society was failing to address, while the performances offer a unique opportunity for young Egyptian women to write for themselves instead of being written about by others. They are not professional artists, but a group of passionate, enthusiastic youth with strong faith in the value and impact of the project. They felt that theater would be the best way to reach a large body of people while providing the storytellers with a direct opportunity to publicly reclaim the truth as they experienced it. The BuSSy Project’s stories reflect a reality Egyptians are living with regards to gender issues that are experienced by all members of society, irrespective of class and background.

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A Spark grant will cover: 

  • Sponsorship for BuSSy performers on a tour throughout Egypt and help empower these young women to reclaim their stories as they experienced it.

Pro Bono needs:

  • Spread the word on Social Media: The BuSSy Project is facing censorship! The BuSSy Project’s high school students’ performance in Cairo, Egypt, was unfairly canceled (both in venue and funding) due to “inappropriate” content, with excuses of technical issues in the space. Check out the full story below and share the following messages with your social media networks.
    • Twitter: .@SparkSF grantee @TheBuSSyProject is facing censorship in #Egypt! Let performers for #GenderEquality speak. http://bit.ly/1aWP8MWFacebook: Spark grantee The BuSSy Project is facing censorship in Egypt! Let performers for #GenderEquality speak. http://bit.ly/1aWP8MW

More Information on the censorship issue:

In January 2014, The BuSSy Project and AFCA Foundation for Arts and Culture entered into a partnership to facilitate storytelling workshops in high schools all over Cairo, Egypt in order to document the experiences of high school students and create an open space forum for young Egyptians to feel empowered by the chance to share experiences with their lives, families, relationships, and school dynamics. The stories of the high school students were then adapted into a staged performance, to raise awareness about the issues discussed, calling “500s” [or “Khomsomeeyat”].

The performance was originally set to premiere at the Hakawy International Children’s Festival at the Cairo Opera Houseon 15 and 16 March 2015. On the night before the premiere, the director of the Opera House, having been informed of the alleged “inappropriate” content of the show by technicians she hired to observe our rehearsals–an accusation which was based on the show’s depiction of youth going through adolescence, including such common experiences as masturbation and sex education–the director asked that they “tone down” the content. The “500s” team refused the request to edit the content, on the grounds that it constitutes a form of censorship and intrusiveness, as well as a sort of distortion of content which would greatly impact the performance and its underlying goal and message. Thus, the performance was canceled by the Opera House, for, in their words, “technical reasons.”

Despite its initial difficulties, “500s” was scheduled to proceed with its premiere, at an independent venue. The co-producers, BuSSy & AFCA secured the Greek Campus in Cairo to host the premiere of “500s” and began publicizing the new dates of the performance, 16 & 17 April.However, just two weeks before the show’s premiere, the leadership of AFCA decided that the show’s content is inappropriate, and AFCA has decided that they no longer feel comfortable producing the show without making major changes to the play. AFCA then suggested that BuSSy submit the script of the performance to a committee, selected by AFCA, to review the script and make suggested changes. For the second time in less than one month, “500s” was censored. Since BuSSy had not changed its convictions concerning censorship, AFCA decided to cease its support of the performance, which was not only as co-producers, but also has financial supporters.

“500s” is now facing a ‘sink or swim’ situation–and we have decided to choose to ‘swim.’ The premiere, which is scheduled for April 16th, will go on, though due to BuSSy’s limited financial resources, it will be a difficult endeavor. Thus, we are reaching out to members of our community for support, to bring to light the realities of art censorship and regulation in Egypt, and help us to share the important messages that “500s” addresses.

Press coverage:

Egypt Independent: Cairo Opera House cancels play on adolescence for ‘inappropriate’ content

Ahram Online: Play for teenagers cancelled, organisers explain why

cairoscene: STATE-RUN THEATRE BANS ‘INAPPROPRIATE’ CHILDREN’S PLAY

Mada Masr: BuSSy Monologues’ new show halted at Cairo Opera House

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Closing the Gap: Spark News Digest

An internet gender gap, gender wage gap, human right’s gap and a cabinate- appointment diversity gap. Spark news digest is here to help fill in the gap, plus discussion on a new approach to film making.

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Women wearing colourful Saris Rajasthan India Photo: ALAMY

Women wearing colourful Saris Rajasthan India Photo: ALAMY

GLOBAL: Fifth of women in India and Egypt think internet use is ‘inappropriate’

Can you imagine feeling guilty and ashamed by your family for connecting to the digital world? A new Intel report stated that one in five women in Egypt and India feel the internet is not appropriate for them to use, increasing an internet gender gap.  However, if these women were empowered to connect, they could move mountains. It is estimated that the transformative power of the web in business and educational opportunities for women could increase GDP by billions in 144 developing countries.

Read the full story 

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LOCAL: Equal Education, Unequal Pay. The Gender Wage Gap in the USA

This beautifully designed infographic illustrates that while women are paying the same for tuition, doing equally as good or even better than their male counterparts in college, the gender wage gap post graduation is still very present in the good ‘ol USA. Similar to the internet gender gap, if women’s salaries matched men’s, the GDP would increase by billions of dollars. That’s the kind of math that really adds up.

Read the full story

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GLOBAL: North Korea’s Human Rights Abuses Have ‘No Parallel’

While the attention on North Korea recently has been on stopping their development of nuclear weapons and missiles, human abuses have been overlooked. Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Right stated that  “torture, summary executions, rape, slave labor, and forms of collective punishment that may amount to crimes against humanity” are affecting almost the entire population of North Korea, in and out of prison camps.

Read the full story

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LOCAL: Obama’s Women Problem Is a Problem of His Own Making

A debate has been sparked by the lack of women appointments, to date, in Obama’s second-term cabinate. Given the criticism the President has received around roles of senior women within his circle, let’s see what’s to come.

Read the full story

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FILM: A New Approach to Making Films That Matter

Films are one of the most powerful mediums of our time. The number of documentary films have grown rapidly within the last few years while funding has increased at a pace less than half the rate of production. Funders want to understand the investment’s social impact in a more direct way. To help, social scientists are looking at ways of compiling data to understand how the framing of social issues spreads within social networks and potentially shifts public discourse. While this approach is new, it has the potential to give film makers and funders the data necessary to create stories that influence, educate and engage the intended audience.

Read the full story

Egypt Update: Women’s Rights After The Revolution

BY SARAH MIERS, Spark Fellow

As the protests made headline news, we hoped that they would bode well for women involved in the revolution. So far this is not the case. Women are being excluded from an important and exciting moment in shaping Egypt’s future—drafting the country’s new constitution.

Image: © Ramy Raoof

The news took me by surprise. Women’s strong participation in Egypt’s protests against the Mubarak government alluded to a certain degree of political equality. Yet just weeks later, nearly 300 women marching in Tahrir Square on International Women’s Day were beaten and sexually assaulted by a mob. This incident highlights the crucial importance of protecting women’s rights in Egypt, and the recent exclusion of women in the drafting a new constitution underlines the magnitude of this issue.

These recent events may hinder the ongoing progress towards improving women’s political rights in the country. Back in 1957 Egypt became the first Arab country to elect a woman to parliament. In 2010, the Mubarak government secured 64 parliament seats for women. With the omission of women’s input in drafting the new constitution and the harassment of marchers supporting women’s rights and equality, I fear that women’s rights might be jeopardized in the post-revolutionary Egypt. Of particular concern is maintaining the 64 seats in parliament. Since this legislation was enacted under President Mubarak, it is unclear whether or not the new constitution will preserve this right.

In a region where women’s rights are restricted, the broader implications of these political events are very important. While I watch the future of Egypt unfold, I hope that women are able to preserve their existing political presence and continue to fight for equal rights.

Egypt: What Does This Mean for Women?

What I know for certain is that this uprising will forever alter the position of women in Egypt.  What I don’t know is how.  Political unrest impacts disempowered communities differently—both positively and negatively.

Here are some trends that I am watching:

Women are key actors in this movement.

Women are protesting side by side with men. Renowned Egyptian feminist and human rights activist Nawal El Saadawi reported from Cairo, “Women and girls are beside boys in the streets…We are calling for justice, freedom and equality, and real democracy and a new constitution, no discrimination between men and women, no discrimination between Muslims and Christians, to change the system… and to have a real democracy.”

Young women, in particular, were instrumental in initiating the protests–inspiring men to speak out.

Asmaa Mahfouz has been credited with sparking the fire with her YouTube video posted several weeks ago calling for a protest to bring down Mubark and his regime.

The secular, rights-based impetus for the protest may not remain central during a political transition.

I am watching the developments and hoping that the spirit of the protests perseveres the volatility of this political process.  Both Scott Atran and  Carrie Rosefsky-Wickham cautioned against the misunderstanding and over-simplification of secular and religious political factions. However, the ascendance of a fundamentalist regime would have a negative impact on women in Egypt and the region.

This has turned into a humanitarian crisis.  When food and other resources are scarce, women and girls loose out.

Gender inequalities are exacerbated during crisis.  This is true of natural disasters, war and political uprisings.

This historic moment in Egypt will change the country and the region.  While I don’t know how this will impact women in Egypt, I do know that attention matters.  We will continue to monitor the situation and report findings from our four Spark members in Cairo and other partners on the ground.