Yearly Archives: 2015

The Role of Women in Northern Africa – Struggles Between Tradition and New Freedom

14km Film and Discussion Series

“Women’s rights should be at the top of the new list of priorities,“ said Pillay (UN High Commissioner for Human Rights) on 3 March 2011, as the wave of revolutions swept across North Africa. In the four years since the revolution began in Tunisia, much has changed for many North African countries. In addition to political upheavals, many discussions on societal development have emerged, with the role of women in society a central theme. Once upon a time… the film shows, the issue of women’s rights in North Africa has come to the fore. Radu Mihăileanu’s feature film, “The Source” takes on a fairy tale-like narrative style right from the opening credits: This story of a group of women in a village “somewhere between North Africa and the Middle East,” is “somewhere between reality and a fairy tale.” The first scene of the film shows the disunity of the village community in all its clarity. Women fetch water from the remote water hole, while men sit around drinking tea. The village celebrates the birth of a child, while Karima mourns the loss of her unborn child due to an accident incurred fetching water. Scarred by having lost a child of her own in an accident while fetching water, young Leila decides that either the men fetch the water for the community, or they are to build an aqueduct to bring water into the village. At first, Leila meets stiff resistance, not least from her own mother. But soon enough, she manages to convince her loving husband and some village elders of the merits of the plan. Im Laufe des Filmes werden das Leben und die Rolle der Frau genau wiedergegeben. Die Frauen im Dorf beschreiben ihre Zeit bis zum 14. Geburtstag „als schönste ihres Lebens“, da sie bis dahin frei leben konnten. Sie beschreiben die Tatsache, dass die Frauen zu der entfernten Quelle laufen, um Wasser für das Dorf zu holen und dabei immer wieder durch Unfälle ihr Ungeborenen verlieren, als Tradition. Vor allem malen die Frauen ihr Leid immer wieder in Liedern aus und beschreiben sich dabei als „Fußmatten“ und „Lastenträger für die Männer“. Throughout, the film offers a unique portrayal of women’s lives and roles. The women of the village fondly describe the time until their 14th birthday “as the most beautiful of their lives,” when they could live freely. Then the tradition of fetching water from the remote source, losing unborn children in accidents along the way, sets in. Women are left to use their songs describing themselves as “doormats” and “load carriers for the men” to paint over their grief and frustration. The women take to their struggle through creative means. Unable to work the fields due to the drought, men sit around drinking their tea, while the women take to the water source, arranging branches to construct a fountain and inscribing the slogan: “Your hearts are dry and thorny.” Their expression of frustration culminates with the performance of their songs of grief at a local thanksgiving festival. A newspaper seizes the chance to publish an article detailing the situation in the village. Quick to realise the strike in this village could spread further, or that female demands might increase, the government sets about building the necessary aqueduct immediately. With the water line constructed, the women’s self-esteem grows. At the same time, the men’s fears this could lead the women to an even greater desire of power remain unfounded in the film's end in which the women admit “the source of women is love – the source of women is man.” The film continually portrays the struggle between traditional and modern times, taking up many taboo topics in Arab society to describe the hard fought struggle for female recognition. After the film, a discussion featured: Hoda Salah (doctorate in political science (PhD title: “The Political Participation of Islamic Activists in Egypt), women’s rights activist, and lecturer of political education); and Eva Christine Schmidt (current doctoral student at the Berlin Graduate School of Muslim Cultures and Societies (PhD topic: Gender Politics in Transition: The Role of Feminist Actors in the Tunisian Transition). The discussants took on the themes of the film, applying them to the respective contexts in Egypt and Tunisia. Both speakers firstly described their overall impressions of the film. Attention was drawn to the film’s portrayal of women in villages, and contrasted against the role of women in cities – something quite different. It was importantly noted that the film did not involve Arab women, although it shared a similar concern for women struggling for their fundamental rights. Women in the city fight a different battle for their individual rights. The film tackles stereotypes, but in a different sense. For Hoda Salah, what is important is that “such films show women playing a strong role.” Another point of interest in this movie was its ability to grapple with multiple taboo topics in Arab society. Above all, dealing with the issue of sexuality is an exciting feature. The fact that Leila had made love before marriage was, for example, a key issue in the film. With love, her husband is able to forgive her. At the same time, concerns of marital rape cannot be escaped in the film. Close attention was paid to the role of women in Egypt and Tunisia, both before and after the revolution. Eva Christine Schmidt described the state’s dominant control before the revolution. Only a few small feminist organisations were able to exist then, mostly in the capital, such as the Association Tunisienne des Femmes Démocrates (ATFD) and the Union Nationale de la Femme Tunisienne. As society opened up following the revolution, a host of new feminist organisations were spawned across the country. Focus was placed on two major women’s movements – one with strong leftist tendencies and the other which promoted feminism in accordance with Islamic beliefs. It was interesting to note how the two organisations held contrasting views, making cooperation between them difficult. Hoda Salah described the role of women in Egypt in four phases, which all influenced the women’s movement as it is today. Egypt had one of the earliest women’s movements in the Arab world. A demonstration in Tahrir Square in 1933 following a conference in Italy saw women remove their headscarves – a strong show of freedom. And yet, today, the granddaughters of these pioneering women are back to wearing the headscarf, and refrain from simply adopting western traditions. Tensions have grown between these two approaches in Egypt. At the same time, those tensions are sometimes overstated: the struggle for rights can be described as an elitist struggle of the middle and upper classes – at least where individual rights are concerned. The basic fundamental rights of those women in the village in the film are a different matter. Priorities change when faced with such pressing real life issues. The audience offered some further perspectives on the role of women, particularly regaring their physical strength. The polarisation of society was highlighted. It was noted how men were deemed physically strong, while women were viewed as weaker – and how this view was intrinsic to the beliefs of the village. The importance of the revolutions to feminist activism was also noted. The idea that change need not necessarily be institutional was an important take away from the revolution. Rather than following leaders, young people could formulate and develop their own ideas together. A good example was the way flash mobs of Tunisian feminists joined together as the “Femen” activist group. That said, institutional struggles for feminism in Tunisia remain an important force. Unlike in Egypt, there are institutions and organisations in Tunisia that go out to the villages directly aiming to bring about changes in education and strengthen the independence of women. Furthermore, the role of men is an integral part of the struggle for women’s rights. While women are concerned with their own struggle for rights, it is important to also tackle the clear role of men as the financial centre of the family. Unemployed men suffer both social and familial humiliation. Trampling on men’s rights is not a sustainable solution – both sets of rights need to be considered and respected. Questions from the audience concluded the discussion, probing the discourse on women’s issues in the respective countries. The speakers addressed questions on the nature of this discourse. They cited examples of public demonstrations following the rape of woman at the hands of Tunisian police, and manifestations against Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, who had weakened the role of women in society. It was clear that such actions demonstrate the important political role of women in both countries. A final question suggested that more independent thinking from adolescents could serve as a catalyst for change. A major rethinking is needed to consider women not only as future housewives, but also as independent workers. Yet educational institutions tend to fail to instil such independent thoughts among the youth – uncritical rote learning and memorisation of facts is a staple in Egypt’s educational system. The internet and its possibilities for self-learning, however, offers an important opportunity to break with traditional education. Overall, the clear takeaway message was that of the different considerations of the role of women across society and between villages and towns. While the revolution in many ways helped to strengthen the role of women in society, the range of currents and understandings of this role continue to search for a common path. Youth are crucial to exploring and harmonising these different paths. Many thanks to the speakers and all the guests for coming and engaging in a fascinating discussion. A special thanks also goes to Hoda Salah and Eva Christine Schmidt for providing such interesting background information on the situation of women in Tunisia and Egypt. Event's Invitation with additional informations about "The Source" Further films about Women's Rights in our 14km Film Database   Event organisation: Carolin Bannorth and Andreas Fricke Moderation: Carolin Bannorth Text: Sarah Müller Text translation: Alex Odlum Photos: Jana Vietze Organisation: The volunteer 14km Film Team Project Management: Andreas Fricke The 14km Film and Discussion Series 2015 gets sponsorship by budgetary funds of the Federal State of Berlin – Office for Development Cooperation. Read more event reports and background information at the project's homepage. The events are dedicatet to a single country or specific topic, in order to give an artistic-documentary impression . The ensuing audience discussion aims to include further informations by an affected person living in Berlin and by an scientific expert, always aiming to make links to North-South relationships. We express thanks for the support:  

1. Interkulturelles Seminar am 30.01.2016 in Berlin

Ab Januar 2016 führt das Team von 14km e.V. - the shortest distance between North Africa and Europe interkulturelle Seminare durch. Ziel ist es, für künftige Auslandsaufenthalte in der Region Nordafrika und Naher Osten zu sensibilisieren. Dabei wollen wir unser Wissen und unsere Auslandserfahrungen in der Region Nordafrika und Naher Osten gern weitergeben und Euch auf die kulturellen Besonderheiten und Unterschiede in der Region vorbereiten. An dem ganztägigen, interaktiven Workshop möchten wir Euch durch Vorträge grundlegende Informationen vermitteln. Mit Hilfe verschiedener Methoden wollen wir zu einem lebendigen und erfahrungsorientierten Lernen anregen. Dabei sollen auch mögliche Vorurteile und Stereotype thematisiert bzw. reduziert werden. Kosten Das Seminar kostet 25 € inkl. der Bereitstellung von kleinen Snacks in der Mittagspause und Getränken. Für Schüler und Studenten gibt es eine Ermäßigung von 5 €. Termine Das erste Seminar wird am 30.01.2016 stattfinden. Weitere Termine werden folgen. Außerdem besteht die Möglichkeit ab einer interessierten Gruppe von 5 Personen individuelle Termine für ein Seminar mit uns zu vereinbaren. Interesse? Kontaktiert uns gern oder meldet Euch an unter: Homepage 14km Interkulturelles Seminar

“Ahlan wa sahlan – refugees welcome“

Multilaterale Jugendbegegnung

Durchführungszeitraum: Mai 2016 in Berlin Beteiligte Länder: Tunesien, Ägypten, Deutschland   Warum ist unser Projekt wichtig? Seit mehreren Jahren winden sich Syrien und Libyen in einem blutigen zivilen Krieg, der Millionen Menschen zur Flucht zwingt. Für viele Menschen auf der Flucht wird Europa und u.a. Deutschland zum Zielland. Auch Nordafrika gilt als unmittelbares Transfer/Zielland für hunderttausende Geflüchtete. So gibt es hunderttausende geflüchtete SyrerInnen in Ägypten und mehr als eine Million geflüchteten LibyerInnen in Tunesien. Die Migrationsströme stellen eine große Herausforderung für arabische und europäische Länder dar. Wie genau in anderen Ländern mit dieser Herausforderung umgegangen wird, wird in der Regel nicht thematisiert. Wissens- und Erfahrungsaustausch könnten aber gerade zwischen Nordafrika und Europa Verständnis erzeugen, neue Perspektiven in den Diskurs einbringen und Lösungsansätze aufzeigen. Deswegen möchten wir im Mai 2016 je fünf junge Menschen aus Ägypten, Tunesien und Deutschland in Berlin zusammenbringen und die Lage der Geflüchteten in den drei Ländern und die Möglichkeiten diese strukturell zu verbessern, zusammen thematisieren. Was ist unser Ziel? Wir möchten einen produktiven Erfahrungs- und Ideenaustausch unter Jugendlichen aus Ägypten, Tunesien und Deutschland initiieren und die Frage stellen: Was kann ich persönlich tun, um die Situation der Geflüchteten in meinem Heimatland zu verbessern? Wir möchten die Teilnehmenden ermuntern, selbst in diesem Bereich aktiv zu werden, sei es durch die Unterstützung von Einzelpersonen, Initiativen, Institutionen oder den Aufbau eines eigenen Projekts. Was können Sie machen? Wenn Sie unsere Arbeit unterstützen wollen, können Sie gern spenden. Wir stellen für Sie gern eine Spendenbescheinigung aus. Unsere Bankverbindung ist: Bank: GLS Gemeinschaftsbank IBAN: DE97 43060967 1159374500 BIC: GENO DE M 1 GLS Wir freuen uns auch über eine Unterstützung in anderer Form z. B. als ReferentIn. Wo erfahre ich mehr über das Projekt? Alle Ihre Fragen beantworten sehr gern unsere Projektkoordinatorinnen Helena Burgrova und Caroline Bunge.

Mahragan – Music as Revolution

While the political actors of the Tahrir generation seem to fade away, their revolutionary spirit still simmers within Egyptian society. The “Mahragan” with its often blasphemous but honest lyrics, remains a lasting symbol of the achievements made towards freedom of speech in 2011. Our 7th evening in the 2015 14km Film and Discussion Series was devoted to this phenomenon of Egyptian pop culture and its development in Cairo’s slums. With “Electro Chaabi,” director Hind Meddeb describes the rise of this eponymous musical style (its name, “Mahragan,” roughly translates to “festival”): from the slums of Cairo to the mainstream of Egyptian popular culture. The film features Mahragan’s pioneering artists (DJ Amr Haha, DJ Ramy, DJ Vigo, Figo, MC Alaa 50 Cent, MC Sadat, Oka & Ortega, Weza – the last three of whom perform together as Eight Percent), who took old PCs, keyboards, and downloaded remix tapes to reinvent traditional Chaabi music with an electronic spin. Often piercing rhythms mix with distorted melodies, whose sarcastic and provocative lyrics highlight the struggles of daily life in Cairo’s slums. The artists repeatedly suggest that their success lies in their ability to express what people on the street are thinking, often using banal examples and humorous exaggerations, but also without hesitating to take up controversial political issues. The artists are portrayed in multiple settings: while practising their songs, in interviews with friends and relatives, and, importantly, at four of their live wedding performances. The latter exemplify where Electro-Chaabi music first evolved and became known, before being spread through videos across Youtube and ending as an omnipresent vibe in the streets and on public transport. The film dives into this male dominated, youth sub-culture, fighting for freedom of speech in a society where artistic expression is often tightly constrained. Even the Mahragan performers uncritically accept strict rules of gender separation: men and women never dance together, but always separately. The film consistently offers rare glimpses into the social realities of the densely populated streets and yards in Cairo’s poorer areas, where countless Tuk-Tuks toot their way through an endless sea of houses, mountains of (occasionally burning) garbage, and minors looking for their chance to earn some cash as a taxi-driver. These suburbs operate decoupled, and largely marginalised, from the reach of Cairo’s formal public services. According to one song, drug consumption offers many residents a relief from the stress of these chaotic scenes. An every day occurrence, even children are often caught in the cycle of drugs. While the film mostly takes place in suburbs like Imbaba, Al-Matariyyah, El-Salam City, it moves into downtown Cairo by the end. Mahragan is becoming mainstream. Oka & Ortega sign their first contract with a record company, taking the chance to become national celebrities. We see them appearing in talk-shows, and soon learn they are touring Cairo’s clubs and playing at upper class weddings in five-star hotels. Having made the big time, the film’s director can no longer reach them for an interview. Meanwhile, the pair’s long-term partner, Weza, remains confined to suburbs after he fell out with the others and was excluded from the contract. A public discussion following the film welcomed Mohammed Abdelmageed M. Hussein and Ahmed Awadalla, who having witnessed the emergence of Electo Chaabi in Egypt, were both well placed to comment. Ahmed Awadalla noted that 30 per cent of Egyptians live in conditions similar to those experienced by Mahragam’s pioneers in the slums. Yet, not only does Mahragam directly represent this section of society, but also another 30 per cent of Egyptians can certainly relate to the phenomenon – youth make up almost 60 per cent of the population. Even before the 2011 revolution, this musical style was evolving. It dates to around 2007-8, when it grew out of the streets and weddings of Egypt’s under-represented working class. With revolution, came an opportunity to break down class barriers and expand into a new space. While previously ignored by the media, Mahragan was soon able to conquer not only the “streets,” but also the (mass) media. Mohammed Abdelmageed M. Hussein explained that Electro Chaabi was a fusion of electronic influences with older Chaabi (Egyptian folk music), which is traditionally played at weddings in Upper Egypt – his home region. Originally, Chaabi was simply the music of ordinary people and their stories, neither particularly cultural nor political. An audience member pointed out that, in contrast, Electro Chaabi is clearly distinguishable from its traditional roots as a highly critical “voice of the poor”. In this, it seems to more closely represent the dynamics of contemporary Egyptian society. Asked whether Mahragan was comparable to gangsta rap in the US or baile funk in Brazil, and whether it formed part of a global movement, Mohammed could only partially agree. Indeed, all three have grown out of repressive histories and share many common themes, such as drugs, violence, sex, and to some extent politics. However, in Egypt, there is an additional revolutionary element. In this sense, Mahragan is more accurately analogised with hip hop and blues, which share a comparable, emancipatory connection to the American civil rights movement. When questioned on how Mahragan had reacted to the military coup in 2013, Ahmed Awadalla argued that the music has retained its presence. However, the genre now faces a debate over whether it promotes drug abuse and violence (similar to the challenges faced by the popular Sobky movies). As a result, it is increasingly battles bans and censorship. Yet, songs about drugs are nothing new in Egypt, according to one audience member, who pointed out that Egyptian lyrics had been making drug references as early as the 1920s. For Chaabi, this tradition has been particularly present since the 1970s, a time of political and economic transformation. Another interesting perspective from the audience pointed out the paradox in Chaabi’s reference to drug culture, given that it emerged from the same slums where strong conservative and Islamist movements have spread. Mohamed Abdelmageed M. Hussein explained this by suggesting the slums were dynamic spaces, constantly reshaping themselves and their identities. Correspondingly, such seemingly contradictory developments are not impossible. In line with the theme of 14km’s upcoming Film and Discussion Series evening on 8 December, the current discussion brought up issues of gender and tackled the question of why women had such a weak presence in the film: “Why are the men and women always split into separate groups? Is there not also newfound freedom for women?” One audience member suggested that across the MENA region, “everything is divided” along gender lines. It is socially accepted that women and men do not mix, rather keeping a distance from one another. That, however, does not in and of itself mean women are oppressed. Instead, it only highlights that women have their own sphere – one which is not portrayed in this film. While we see a dominant male culture here, that is not representative of all society. Another commentator argued it could even be dangerous to challenge these invisible boundaries; bringing women and girls into the picture could make them subjects of harassment or worse. Further, it was pointed out that in Egypt’s upper classes, including at the popular music festivals they attend, both sexes dance together without such strict separation. In the slums, however, it remained striking how only the men were able to seize the opportunity to express themselves freely. Lastly, we learned that there are indeed public Mahragan shows by and for women, but that these are neither large nor famous. For example: Our guest Ahmed Awadalla blogs. Biography of director Hind Meddeb Music tips from the audience Film review on norient Event coordination and presentation: Andreas Fricke Coordination of the Film Series: Andreas Fricke Text: Steffen Benzler Translation: Alex Odlum Photos: Jana Vietze Organisation: The 14km Volunteer Film Crew The 14km Film and Discussion Series 2015 gets sponsorship by budgetary funds of the Federal State of Berlin – Office for Development Cooperation. Further events are scheduled as followed: 9 December The events are dedicatet to a single country or specific topic, in order to give an artistic-documentary impression. The ensuing audience discussion aims to include further informations by an affected person living in Berlin and by an scientific expert, always aiming to make links to North-South relationships. We express thanks for the support:

Sprachen lehren, Welten eröffnen

Zwischenbericht von Felix bei Social Voluntary Services in Casablanca

"Good morning Feliiiiix" - sobald ich es 20-mal gehört habe, weiß ich mit Sicherheit, dass mein Arbeitstag nun startet.  Um 08:30 Uhr beginne ich, Felix (18) aus Brandenburg, an der "Ecole ESSALAH privée" in Casablanca den Unterricht, zusammen mit meiner marokkanischen Kollegin Fatima.  3 Stunden Unterrichtszeit haben wir jeden Vormittag, um die 5jährigen der "Grand Section de la Maternelle" auf die kommenden Jahre in der Schule vorzubereiten. Fatima ist Französischlehrerin und damit steht auch fest, welche Sprache im Klassenraum gesprochen wird.  Französisch ist die erste Fremdsprache für die Kinder und extrem wichtig für eine erfolgreiche Zukunft in Marokko.  Da zu Hause arabisch gesprochen wird, schicken die Eltern ihre Kinder in die Vorschule, um ihnen den Einstieg in die Schule später so einfach wie nur möglich zu machen. So üben wir jeden Morgen alles, was wichtig ist - die Zahlen, das Schreiben der lateinischen Buchstaben, die Farben, kurze Dialoge und jede Menge Substantive.  Eine ganze Menge für 5jährige, aber jeder erfolgreiche Satz zu uns Lehrern oder den anderen Kindern macht Spaß.  Dass Französisch wichtig ist merkt man schnell - da ich kein Arabisch spreche, bleibt den Kindern auch gar nichts anderes übrig, als sich auszuprobieren. Doch seit vier Wochen haben Sie noch eine weitere Option: Neben dem Französischunterricht bekomme ich jeden Tag 30 Minuten für Englischunterricht.  Für jeden, der davon träumt die Welt zu entdecken, absolut notwendig! Und so versuche ich jeden Tag 20 Fünfjährigen durch gemeinsames Wiederholen, singen von Liedern und Ratespielen die englische Sprache nahe zu bringen. Wohnen tue ich in Sbata, einem noch sehr traditionell geprägtem Viertel der Acht-Millionenstadt Casablanca.  Für mich Europäer ist das öffentliche Leben hier ein einziges Chaos, doch wie mein 19-jähriger Gastbruder lieben die meisten Einwohner ihre Stadt.  Und auch mir gefallen die verrückten Leute in den kleinen Gassen und auf dem riesigen Markt vor meiner Haustür mehr und mehr.  Und falls doch mal alles zu viel wird, bleibt auch immer noch das Wochenende, an dem ich stets durch das Land reise.  In den ersten Wochen noch stark unterstützt von meiner Aufnahmeorganisation SVS, fühle ich mich mittlerweile in der Lage, auch alleine zu reisen.  Mit meinem noch ausbaufähigen Französisch ist jedes Wochenende ein Abenteuer - Spaß macht es aber immer :)