Egyptian actress Youssra – press photo
CAIRO – 11 December 2017: Following the conclusion of the United Nation’s 16 Day's of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, some public figures have spoken-out within the past week about the role of the arts and drama in raising awareness on this important issue.
Several seminars were held in retrospect of the campaign included, “Anti-Violence Against Women,” led by film critic Magda Morris and a number of distinguished guest speakers, as part of the 39th Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF).
The recent terrorist attack on Al-Arish left a sad note over the seminar. “Nearly two hundred families woke up today without a father, only women playing both roles,” stated Rania Yehia, counselor at the Egyptian Center for Woman's Rights. Despite many cultural institutions suspending their activities in Egypt, in mourning for the victims of Rawdah Mosque, CIFF went ahead with its activities as a way to send a message to the terroist that their cowardly acts will not halt society.
Arts and drama are among the most effective ways to show the detrimental effect of violence against women especially since a significant portion of society is illiterate and visual media is their only source for information and a excellent platform for raising awareness.
“Hundreds of illegal mosques who preach that FGM and marriage of minor girls at the age of nine years old are a strong trigger for societal violence against women of all ages,” said writer Medhat el Adl.
Egyptian actress Youssra explained that drama has been used as a way to fight outdated notions about women for decades. In her series, “El Hessab Yegmaa” (A Full Bill) she showed the continuous struggle women face and how poverty often leads to crime. “The data collected from reality is much worse than we put in drama,” she said.
Actress Elham Shahin said in the seminar that the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013 lead to discriminatory opinions that were hammered in the minds of viewers and listeners.
Violence against women is a global phenomenon, Australian Ambassador Neil Hawkins stated that in Australia one woman is killed every week by her partner.
“The seminar is an opportunity to address the issue and increase awareness of the violence against women,” said Jorg Schimmel, Deputy Director of the United Nations for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.
The Pyramids, Sphinx and Cairo Tower will be lite with orange lights until December 10th in solidarity with the UN’s strategy of zero tolerance for violence against women.
“Violence against women is shown across ethnicity, socioeconomic levels and geographical location,” Schimmel stated, however cinema and drama have an important role in combating the phenomenon by changing societies views and by simply stating that women have the right to live without violence in their lives.
Nearly 115,000 girls skipped school, 7.8 million women have been victims of violence, according to Yehia who spoke about the economic cost of violence and discrimination against women, adding that health care expenses used by women to recover from violence amount to EGP 2.7 billion alongside legal expenses.
Writer Atef Beshay pointed out that we need a cultural revolution to awaken society in parallel with actually helping women who have experienced violence.
Olfa Salami, counselor at the Ministry of Social Solidarity pointed out the efforts made by the ministry to help violence victims, between campaigns to stop marriage of underage girls, FGM, to the visa card program that supports nearly two million needy families with EGP 450 per month.