Egypt: Refugee Women Combat Social Issues Through Theatre

North Africa

Refugee women from a variety of backgrounds who have been subjected to discrimination and harassment are expressing the issues they have faced through theatre performances.

In a small group, Fatima, a young migrant woman living in Egypt, takes part in a six-day theatre workshop with other women of different nationalities.

The aim of the workshop is to enhance the ability of these women to express their views and improve their interpersonal skills.

When she arrived to the capital Cairo a year ago, Fatima says that she started to face discrimination and harassment. While not limited to migrant or refugee women, given that Egypt has the highest level of sexual harassment in the world, being a migrant has compounded this issue, as she gets used to life in Cairo. This added pressure is something that has also been noted by other migrant and refugee women.

“The workshop is a window because we, as women, discuss the problems we face, regardless of racial discrimination or nationalities. We are all subjected to persecution, racism, bullying, and harassment,” said Fatima. “When you find that there are people who suffer from the problems you suffer from, it relieves you and does not cause psychological problems.”

The workshop does not utilise a specific theatre text or training book, but places emphasis on visual education. In other words, the workshop strives to build the abilities of the women to respond to social problems or build relationships with members of the public.

According to Fifi Abdul Shaheed, the trainer of the workshop, it provides an opportunity and space for women to express themselves.

“We give an opportunity and space for the participants in the workshop to express themselves and the problems they face in society or in their relations in general,” said Fifi. “Theatre is an opportunity for my body to express itself. Theatre is also an opportunity to find solutions to the problems I face.”

So far, the theatre training has worked with more than 400 women and it is hoped that this work will continue and help both Egyptian and foreign women to assuage the painful memories of the past and emerge stronger and more willing to face the difficulties of life.