An Egyptian woman who says she had to dress as a man to get work has been hailed as an “exemplary working mother” by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Sisa Abu Daooh, 65, showed up yesterday at the presidential palace to receive an award from Sisi and a cash prize of 50,000 pounds, wearing a male robe and turban, a day after Egypt marked Mother’s Day.
The money, the equivalent of about USD 6,500 (6,000 euros) is a large sum in the conservative rural south where she lives. Abu Daooh told AFP she first started dressing as a man in the city of Luxor 43 years ago after her husband died and she was left to tend to her daughter alone. “I cut my hair and wore a man’s robe and turban, and a man’s shoes to get a job. It was hard to get opportunities as a woman,” she said.
Abu Daooh worked as a brick maker and field hand, and then when her health worsened took up shoe shining. “It was hard (to dress as a man), but without it men would have hassled me and stopped me from working, and maybe even assaulted me.” Despite now having become famous, she says she will continue to work in men’s clothes.
“I will work dressed in a man’s robe until I die,” she said. Women in Egypt are legally equal to men, and many are employed outside the house, but advocates say the country still has a long way to go in advancing their participation in politics and the economy. (AFP) MRJ