About Khaled Sayed

Monday, April 15, 2013

Women's Rights are Human Rights

I met the other day with Dahlia Saad Eldin, an artist and PHD student in African Studies. She
lives in Cairo, and I sat down with her in downtown for coffee.

The first thing she said was, “we can't start the conversation asking for women's rights. That is
the wrong way to go about getting women rights.” She continued, “What are women? They are
human beings, and in Egypt we have no human rights at all.” She explained that if we had human
rights, and we started respecting the people, we would all live a better life.

I can’t deny that I agree with her logic. If we as an Egyptian society start teaching equality at
home, our kids will grow up learning how to treat each other with respect and understanding.

Dahlia expressed sadness when she said, “from a very young age, women are treated like
second class citizens; the boy in the family is served and obeyed, whether he is younger or
older than the girls in the house. If the boy in the house needs a cup of water, he asks his sister
to bring it to him.”

That kind of upbringing messes with a kid's head. Children in Egypt grow up thinking that they
are not equal to one another. A woman's role in the family is to do housework and serve the
men, even if both parents are working outside the home. The man comes back from work and
waits for his wife to get dinner ready, while he rests or reads the paper.

“If we need to change this kind thinking, we need to start at home,” Dahlia said. “We need teach
children that they are all equally responsible and accountable for housework, and let them
interact with each other, instead of giving the boy the right to be superior to the girls.”

With the kind of upbringing that is so common in Egypt, it's no surprise to find women's rights,
and human rights in general, are so easily ignored.