Comic strips at Cairo's metro stations raise awareness of sexual harassment
Non-profit behind initiative says 'catchy and colorful' comics draw in people of all ages
In an attempt to raise awareness of sexual harassment in Cairo, a non-profit organization in Egypt's capital has placed comic strips on the walls of the city’s metro stations as part of a campaign called “What will you do?”
According to a joint report published by a UN agency, the Empowerment of Women, Egypt’s Demographic Center and the National Planning Institute in 2013, 99.3 percent of Egyptian women who were surveyed said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment.
In the 2014 report on Egypt by Human Rights Watch, Egyptian groups reported at least 19 cases of mob sexual assaults in January alone. Women's rights groups confirmed to Human Rights Watch that in June and July of 2014, 186 sexual attacks on women occurred in Cairo’s Tahrir Square over one week.
The comics at the metro stations were created by artist Ahmed Nady and depict the challenges many women face in Cairo, such as dealing with a culture of victim-blaming to feeling unsafe.
One illustration shows a young woman finding it harder and harder to tolerate the daily harassment. “Sometimes I feel like my body is just a piece of cloth covering my soul, and I tell myself that I am not the one being touched and those words aren’t directed at me,” the caption reads.
Imprint is the name of the non-profit organisation responsible for the campaign.
The group decided to work with comics because “they’re catchy and colorful”, drawing people of all ages in to explore the stories they tell, co-founder Abdel Fattah al-Sharkawy explained, according to Mada Masr.
The National Council for Women of Egypt conducted a study last year which found that 62.2% of women had been subjected to psychological violence by their husbands.
While Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi has vowed to crack down on sexual assaults and harassment, Human Rights Watch's report states that "the government’s response has typically been to downplay the extent of the problem or to seek to address it through legislative reform alone.
There is no law criminalizing domestic violence specifically. Other forms of violence against women, including child marriage and female genital mutilation continued to take place in some areas, despite laws prohibiting them. Personal status laws in Egypt continue to discriminate against women in relation to marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance."
Egypt launched its first feminist comic-strip magazine last year, the London-based al -Sharq al-Awsat reported in November.
The magazine, called al-Shakmagiya, aims to break the silence about taboo topics in society and is produced by the Nazra for Feminist Studies. Nazra for Feminist Studies is an NGO which works towards raising awareness of gender issues in both the private and public spheres as well as trying to establish a vibrant feminist movement in Egypt.
“Al-Shakmagiya is different from all other comics in Egypt because it pertains to women’s affairs and the daily events here,” Makhlouf, a cartoonist told al -Sharq al-Awsat.
“One of my caricatures was published in the first issue; it was a compilation of pictorial stories and caricatures,” he added.