CAIRO — She didn't know it would be so hard. Rania Ayman wandered around Cairo’s streets and alleys, seeking out the right women. Once she found people with the qualities she sought, she had to convince each one to record the story of her struggle, to set an example of resolution and determination.
Ayman is a founding member of "One Girl is Worth 100," a project undertaken by a group of female activists who shed light on the struggles of women with onerous or hazardous jobs. The group's objective is to affirm that these jobs are not limited to men and that there are some women who are much more successful than men.
Based on this idea, the campaign is achieving its goals. It has gained the support of many public figures in the community — unlike many campaigns launched by social media activists.
Ayman told Al-Monitor the impetus behind the campaign arose from the frustration that women suffer. For example, her research shows that 70% of TV, radio and newspaper stories about women are limited to topics of sexual harassment, homicide and rape. She felt the need for a campaign highlighting positive things women do, to give them hope and optimism.
This campaign is the first of its kind, she said, as it focuses on women's work and highlights the struggles of women whose work situations are especially difficult. There are women working as butchers. Others work as waitresses in cafes patronized almost exclusively by men. There are also women cleaning sewer drains and tackling other tough jobs that need to be highlighted.
The text of the interview follows.
Al-Monitor: Tell us about the "One Girl is Worth 100" campaign.
Ayman: "One Girl is Worth 100" is a media campaign designed to provide women with moral support, by inspiring them, through stories of struggle and success, of women of various social, economic and age categories. The common denominator between those categories is an ongoing real story of struggle that succeeded in turning all of the social and personal problems into challenges [that could be overcome].
Al-Monitor: Why was it named as such, instead of “One Girl is Worth 100 Men”?
Ayman: The reason behind the campaign’s title is that there are successful women despite the bad social conditions. The success each one achieves equates with the success of 100 people who gave up because of their problems and took easier paths. Yet, "One Girl is Worth 100 Men" would be a sexist title. Men are not better than women, and women are not better than men. The advantage goes to the one who defies society and refuses to give in to its rules and judgments.
Al-Monitor: Where did you get the idea?
Ayman: Honestly, I saw that media outlets — whether TV, radio or daily news — surround women with a significant quantity of negative news and terms. After a thorough search, I found out that 70% of the online headlines that include the term “women” are linked to sexual harassment, homicides and rape. All of these issues are negative and raise fear and frustration among women. This is why I believe there is a need to shed light on positive issues and fill women with positive energy.
Al-Monitor: What are the objectives behind the campaign?
Ayman: The objective of the campaign is to boost women’s self-esteem, ambition and hope, to be able to carry on with their struggle, not to give up because of their personal and social problems, to be capable of dealing with their reality and try to change this reality even without any help from others.
Al-Monitor: Why did the campaign focus on onerous jobs that women do?
Ayman: This is because women doing these jobs are the most important evidence of equality between men and women in terms of obligations and duties. Shedding light on them in the community helps women break the circle of marginalization that society has tried to impose.
Al-Monitor: What are the campaign’s mechanisms to highlight women's struggle?
Ayman: The campaign’s mechanisms are based on expressing their stories in short episodes full of energy and great inspiration. At the beginning of the campaign, we filmed 15 episodes on successful women from the different provinces and we posted them online. We asked the viewers to write their stories, if any, and explain the reason behind their suffering and challenges they have faced. This is added to a letter encouraging Egyptian girls and motivating them to work hard and struggle to freely fulfill their ambitions.
Al-Monitor: What were the difficulties during the campaign’s implementation phase?
Ayman: The major difficulties I faced was the search for women doing hard and hazardous jobs in all provinces. This is because they keep a low profile and work for a living. Most of them did not succeed with their education. There are women working as butchers, where they bravely use a sharp knife to cut the meat and sell it to the clients. We found a lady cleaning sewer drains, where she goes into the drain and cleans it without shame. There are also those working in a cafe, offering tea and coffee to clients, which is worthy of honor. Unfortunately, [it took] great effort to convince them to film and record their stories of struggle. After the issue was discussed with them, we succeeded in convincing them that they have an exalted message that everyone in the community needs to learn about.
Al-Monitor: Does the campaign help women find jobs?
Ayman: Yes, part of the campaign’s objectives and plans is holding workshops to teach women about some skills that make them more successful and to help searchers find job opportunities to achieve their goals in life.