|Photos from the event:|
“On a hot Sunday night in Cairo, a woman wearing jeans, a loose black sweater, and a white hijab stood on an outdoor stage, quietly speaking into a microphone to share her experiences of sexual violence. Only by standing with her back to the audience of more than 100 people could she muster the courage to talk. As soon as she left the stage, her friends surrounded her, hugging her, and comforting her. Then, another woman took the stage to tell her story.
During a recent trip to Egypt, I saw dozens of brave women and their male allies share their stories and thoughts about sexual violence, especially street harassment, at an event organized by Darb 1718, BuSSy, HarassMap, and Mashrou3 Mareekh. Using spoken word, song, and an open mic session, they clearly moved the audience, more than a third of them men. May Shehab, the director of Darb 1718, said she heard a number of men say they felt angry and wanted to do take action.
Their consciousness was also raised through visual art as in an exhibit entitled “Enough.” Before the spoken word began, people clustered together to view commentary about sexual harassment in mediums of chalk, colored pencils, photographs and videos.
“I’m a firm believer in using art as a vehicle for activists. It’s a way to start dialogues,” said Heba Habib, a HarassMap volunteer and co-organizer of “Enough.” Shehab agreed, calling art “one of the most effective ways to tackle harassment [because]…it evokes thought and debate.”
For Shehab, a photographic piece by Nahla Sebaei entitled “Burning Soul” was the most compelling. In four frames, a partially nude woman dressed in paper clothing is covered with flaming hand marks where harassers touched her. The caption reads, “When someone harasses me…he is burning my soul and that leaves scars in my mind and my feeling and my soul.” Shehab said she heard several people say the image perfectly captured how street harassment makes them feel.”
Video from the event: