CAIRO: The “Bussy project” (“look”) started in 2006 at the American University in Cairo inspired by similar project in the United States and customized for Egypt, said project member Sally Zohney during the celebration of International Women’s Day on Saturday.
The project is based on Egyptian women sharing exchanging their stories about sexual harassment, violence, (sexual) relationships, sexually transmitted diseases or related experiences, Zohney said.
Its first sessions were held at the Garage of the Cairo Opera House, but after two days the opera’s management cut the lights and sound off as they did not agree with the kind of language women used to describe what happened to them. The women in the sessions used to say the exact same words and curses they were subject to themselves and shared the full details of their stories, Zohney explained.
As a result the people responsible for the project decided to move to the streets, holding sessions in public places such as metro stations in Cairo. Unfortunately women were regularly beaten by passersby.
Following, the project organizers decided to conduct experiments to see how people would react to sexual harassers. They carried out three acts.
The first act included a girl wearing a niqab being sexually harassed by a guy. As the girl in the act yelled at the guy, many passersby start blaming the girl for yelling at and talking with the guy, instead of blaming the guy of harassment.
The two other experiments also showed that passersby usually side with the harasser, and not with the victim that tries to defend him or herself. According to Zohney this shows that Egyptian society supports sexual harassment.
She believes that the problem of violence against women and sexual harassment can be solved by increasing the percentage of educated women because ignorance and illiteracy are main factors for these social problems.
Regarding marches that used to go out on International Women’s Day, Zohney said that in 2011 they were not trained and they had no political powers or figures to participate in the marches, so they were assaulted heavily. They were beaten and sexually harassed at Tahrir Square during their march, she added.
One of the attendees asked a question about this year’s women’s march that did not go out on Women’s Day as usual. “We will not allow raising Rabaa or Sisi slogans or pictures during a protest regarding women’s rights” answered a member of I saw harassment, Fathi Farid.