Salwa Bakr’s International Women’s Day

Posted: January 17, 2010 in Women's Empowerment

By Weam Al Dakheel

weam al dakheel international women's day

Salwa Bakr is a renowned Egyptian woman literary writer. Born and based in Cairo, she had been a film critic for several Arabic language publications in Cyprus. With a degree in business management and literary criticism, she embarked in the field of journalism and literature and become one of Egypt’s most celebrated novelists and short essay writers. Bakr’s works had won not only national acclaim, but also international recognition. One of her most famous works was the story about the “International Women’s Day.”

This story revolves around a male teacher who discusses the significance of women in society among elementary pupils. He is teaching the children to value and appreciate the precious role women play in the larger society. However, the great irony is that the teacher himself had problems observing this same teaching. Throughout the discussion, the headmistress was listening and reflecting on the said social importance of women.

This story reveals the conflict between the desires and aspirations shared by some individuals and groups to advocate for the cause of women in Arab society and the harsh social realities. Arab countries may join the world in celebrating the International Women’s Day, but whether there is the sincerity to live up to gender equality and the protection of women’s rights and liberties in a largely patriarchal and traditional society remains to be seen. The teacher in the story may have the best intentions to campaign for the social uplifting of Arab women, but how is he going to correct social norms and conventions established several generations before him. Observing such day for women may, thus, be merely a “show” in order to portray the country’s national image as caring for its women even though this may not be entirely the true case in real life. This stresses that much remains to be done in order to improve the lot of Arab women other than simply participating in International Women’s Day festivities at the official level. The commitment to pursue greater social freedoms for women must be carried out at all levels from the education to the workplace to every family’s home.

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