Sexual violence is a pervasive universal problem. It is a widespread and serious problem in Egypt: the country has the second-highest figures in the world after Afghanistan. According to a 2013 United Nations study, “virtually all Egyptian women have been victims of sexual harassment,” with 99.3 percent of the women surveyed in the study having been sexually harassed.
Although Egypt has had its “Me Too” moments, its effects have been transient. I have been verbally and sexually harassed in the streets, at home, and at work in Cairo, and I am enraged by the prevalence and normalisation of the problem, and this has led me to create this work. In this project I am protesting in solidarity with other women against sexual violence. One of the underlying problems that prevent women from speaking up and reporting assault is victim blaming and shaming. This response can cause ongoing and deep-rooted trauma. I want to spotlight the issue and fight the stigma around reporting assault. I think we need to ask ourselves whether well-meaning men are part of the problem. Do they contribute to it, or can they be counted on as allies in this struggle against sexual violence?
This chapter of the project centers around Egyptian women’s stories of sexual violence in different public and private spaces in Cairo. The project is collaborative. I met the participants after doing a call out on Instagram. In this chapter, I am layering the environmental portraits I made with the participants with their hand written text, and gold masking to protect their identities as per their request. The construction of the images reflects the shared journey and the evolution of my relationship with them, and with myself regarding the issue. It’s a build up of the narrative, and the dialogue between image and text was essential to navigate such a traumatic endemic issue.