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'Speak up!' blogging on sexual harassment in Egypt just a start

Bloggers and activists tweeted their hearts out to raise awareness about Egypt's sexual harassment plague

Ekram Ibrahim , Tuesday 21 Jun 2011
Sexual Harassment
Photo: AP
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After 24 hours of tweeting and blogging on sexual harassment in Egypt, today Nazra, an organisation for feminist studies, in cooperation with HarassMap is organising a discussion table under the banner “What has not been said,” inviting bloggers and activists to discuss “What happens after the blogging and tweeting day against Sexual Harassment and Gender Violence in Egypt?”

Both male and female Egyptian bloggers contributed time blogging and/or tweeting about sexual harassment in an attempt to “speak up” and end the social epidemic.

“It is very crucial to destroy the walls of silence and to bring people to talk about the issue unlike before when mentioning sexual harassment was very random,” Nehad Abul Qumsan, head of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights told Ahram Online.

According to the Harass Map website, “Blogging and tweeting day against sexual harassment and gender violence,” inspired 144 blog posts, 11 Facebook notes, three poems and one video.

“This bypassed our expectations,” Engy Ghozlan, co-founder of Harass Map told Ahram Online.

The majority of posts highlighted the idea that sexual harassment is a manifestation of the masculinity crisis in our society. Several females expressed their desire to walk comfortably in the street.  “I want to walk in Cairo without constantly thinking of how every inch of my body moves with each step, how the breeze rearranges my clothes,” tweeted @manal, Manal Hassan.

To end to sexual harassment, some bloggers recommended harsh laws and government intervention. Others agreed that education and improving the image of women in society is most important. “Sexual harassment will only stop in #Egypt when the burden of the harassment switches from victim to perpetrator,” tweeted @NadiaE, Nadia El-Awady.

Some even recommended marriage or the acceptance of safe sex as solutions. “So I propose we crack down on SH firmly with law, and spread awareness to promote frequent (and safe) pre-marital sex for all,” tweeted @TarekShalaby.

Activism and campaigning in poor areas was proposed by several bloggers. “I think we should have a women's anti-sexual harassment march, but this won't be organized just on FB, we need a big plan!” tweeted @SalmaSaid.

For male bloggers, there seemed to be a palpable feeling of shame. “I am furious that we've allowed 50 percent of our society to feel uncomfortable every single time they step out of their house. What kind of a embarrassing weakling of a society are we?” wrote blogger, Mohamed el-Dahshan in his post, “End Sexual Harassment Day in Egypt, No Mercy.”

Also blogger Will E. echoed el-Dashan’s frustrations in, “Sexual Harassment.” “If there is one thing I would change about Egypt, it would be sexual harassment. It threatens my freedom and fills me with shame.”

Several women blogged about their experiences with sexual harassment in language revealing feelings of pain and sometimes empowerment.

“Sharing experience and speaking about the issue empowers women, it makes them feel they aren’t alone anymore,” Abul Qomsan told Ahram Online. Mona Safey created a blog specifically for the tweeting day to share her experiences with sexual harassment. “I wanted my voice to reach all people, yet I felt embarrassed sharing it with everyone one on my Facebook friends list,” Safey told Ahram Online.

Even political figures sent in tweets, like presidential candidate Amr Moussa who wrote, “A Nation whose girls are unsafe to walk down its roads, is a nation whose road to a better future is unsafe. #Egypt #EndSH #stopSH”

Blogging and tweeting are not signs to a quick end to sexual harassment in Egypt, yet a glimpse of light through voicing people’s opinions and feelings. “Some males even aren’t aware of the severity of the issue, such initiatives are very powerful tools of awareness,” Abul Qomsan told Ahram Online.

Follow along with the campaign on Twitter at #endSHor Facebookhere.

See the Nazra and Harass Map discussion event at https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=170454286351470

 

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