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'Every single female in Egypt has been harassed’

world Updated: Dec 29, 2013 01:30 IST
Arabs Got Talent


As soon as the beat started, the young veiled woman bobbed her head to the rhythm, raised her hands to get the crowd clapping and then unleashed a flood of rap lyrics that tackled some of the biggest social challenges women face in the Arab world.

With the Middle East’s hit TV show "Arabs Got Talent" as her stage, 18-year-old Myam Mahmoud rapped about sexual harassment, second-class treatment of women, and societal expectations of how a young religious woman should behave.

The Egyptian teenager didn’t win the programme, she crashed out in the semifinals, but she did succeed in throwing the spotlight on something bigger than herself. "I wanted to tell girls in Egypt and everywhere else that they are not alone, we all have the same problems, but we cannot stay silent, we have to speak up," Mahmoud said.

In Egypt, a country where politics have grabbed most of the headlines for the past three years, little space has been dedicated to addressing social problems. So Mahmoud, who is a first-year student of politics and economics at a university in a western Cairo suburb, decided to draw attention to women’s rights through rap.

One of the biggest problems for woman in Egypt is sexual harassment. A UN report released in April said the issue had reached "unprecedented levels," with 99.3% of women in the country reporting that they have been subjected to sexual harassment.

"There is no single women in Egypt who has not been harassed, regardless of her looks," Mahmoud said. "As soon as a girl is born in Egypt, she is repressed with many pressures."