By Nada Deyaa’
“We’re doing this for your own good, we want you to get married” – with her light brown eyes filled with tears, Samia remembers what her parents used to tell her while she moaned in unbearable pain after being circumcised .She paused for a few seconds to catch her breath as if she felt the same pain all over again.
Samia, a beautiful middle-aged woman, underwent female genital mutilation (FGM) when she was about to hit puberty. That was not the only form of violence Samia she would experience.
She was born in a poor, small village in rural area in Egypt where her dad struggled to feed all five of his children. While growing up, she witnessed her dad physically and verbally abuse her mum until it became a normal scene for her young eyes.
Samia, who started working as a house maid by 14 to help her dad, kept on working as a bread winner for her family after marriage. Her husband is financially unsupportive of her or their kids, she says. There is also the verbal abuse she suffers from all the time, yet her divorce is not an option, because of the “shame” in the area she comes from.
Samia is not the only woman in Egypt who is silent about the violence she suffers.
El Sawy Culturewheel celebrated the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women with a seminar hosting famous celebrities and public figures. During the seminar, participants talked about their achievements in fighting violence against women in Egypt.
“Women in Egypt don’t only suffer from physical violence, but also from emotional and ethical ones,” said Boshra, an actress and Goodwill Ambassador for the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
Egyptian society has a problem in differentiating between what’s inappropriate and what’s forbidden and permitted based on religious basis, she said.
Boshra added: “Girls are raised that certain things are forbidden based on rules that were created ages ago”.
The United Nations reports that 35% of women around the world have experienced a sort of physical or sexual violence.
“The first kind of abuse a girl faces in Egyptian society is FGM,” said Amr Hassan, a teacher and consultant of gynaecology and obstetrics at Cairo University and the founder of “Enty El-Aham” (“You are the most important”) campaign.
The latest statistic from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) showed that 91% of females have been circumcised in 2012, with 54% of people supporting FGM.
It’s estimated that over 130 million girls and women have undergone the procedure worldwide, according to United Nations.
Mutilation does not only affect females, but also, it has a big effect on their partners’ sexual satisfaction as it leads to premature ejaculation. Some couples use addictive medications such as “Tramadol” as a solution. After a while, that affects pregnancy and increases the possibility of having an addict baby.
Yet, the opportunity of an uncircumcised girl to get married is very rare in some places in Egypt, said Hassan.
Another form of violence women face in an Egyptian society is sexual harassment.
Of women between 18-28, 95% suffered from a form of verbal of physical harassment in the street, according to a study conducted by The Association of Development and Enhancement Of Women (ADEW).
Of the participating women, 52% said they think it’s the girls’ fault, especially if she is “inappropriately dressed”, said Eman Bibars, ADEW chairperson.
Even though women have achieved a big role in financial support to their family, around 70% of Egyptian women are suffering from family violence, said Bibars. “The society insists on delivering women a message that their existence doesn’t make any difference.”
Meanwhile, harassment reaches young girls at a very early age as well.
“One out of three girls has been sexually harassed and physically abused,” said Eman Ezzat, founder of “Hemaya” (“Protection”), a campaign to raise the awareness of children’s sexual harassment.
The effect of physical abuse harms children on the long term, with 90% of harassed children growing up to be harassers themselves, said Ezzat.
The campaign, which consists of over 50 volunteers, aims to help protect children against the dangers of abuse and sexual harassment using a special programme designed for this purpose. It includes educational games, songs, and special material designed to present the course.
On the international level, communities have worked enough to solve the problem of violence against woman not only in Egypt but in the Middle East.
International campaigns like the collaboration between Sweden and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) have committed over EGP 85m for activities supporting gender equality and women´s rights in the coming three years between 2015 – 2017.