“You have the right to eat and drink, you have the right to live safely.” – Eman Ezzat Azizz, who talks to us about her perseverance to educate Egypt’s most vulnerable children about sexual harassment through her breakthrough campaign, 7emayaa.
Child sexual harassment in Egypt is a topic many people, parents in particular, shy away from talking about, perhaps afraid of a fadee7a (scandal). However, when it comes to the wellbeing and safety of our children, a fadee7a should be the least of our concerns.
‘7emayaa’ (Arabic for 'protection') is the first campaign in Egypt and in the Arab world to use a grassroots approach and tackle this tough issue. Running completely non-for-profit, or with the help of donations for five years now, founder Dr. Eman Ezzat dedicates her everyday life to hold lectures and classes around the cities of Egypt, educating children about sexual harassment. Her powerful determination and passion to enlighten children along with their families is more valuable than monetary income for Ezzat. She relies on the assistance of family members and volunteers to help her design banners and produce printed material.It all started at a swimming lesson in a well-known swim centre when Ezzat witnessed the sexual abuse of an eight-year-old girl by her male swimming instructor, right in front of her mother. The girl, evidently unsure of what had happened, “could not tell the difference between physical sexual harassment and the simple guidance of her swimming teacher,” Ezzat tells us. This was the turning point and the first motivator for her to start her 7emayaa campaign, which now garners the support of hundreds of schools around the country that continue to ask for her to lecture their children. Ezzat holds a PhD, specialising in the relationship between art and music, and how these creative media affect the learning capacity of children. Starting from the age of three-and-a-half and up to 14 years of age, and beginning in Egypt’s poorest and most disadvantaged areas, Ezzat designs programmes using songs, drawings, human models, and signs to teach children what is considered to be sexual abuse. “We present the children with specific situations and teach them what is a good touch and what is a bad touch. We include the body parts that are acceptable to be touched and those that aren’t,” Ezzat explains. Ezzat trains volunteers to ensure they are well qualified to help her guide parents and children through the programmes. The programme is not only targeted towards children; Ezzat is adamant to show schoolteachers and parents how to deal with children if they have been abused, through using non-violent and non-abrasive methods. She encourages the use of love and emotional empathy.Having visited more than 230 schools in 16 cities across Egypt, Ezzat has also visited churches and community halls, giving lectures for up to 200 students at a time. Recently, she has researched and expanded her work to children with special needs after discovering that “they are the ones who are the worst off. They don’t know how to say no or they don’t know if they are being harassed. They are also often not believed because they have a disability,” Ezzat says. Currently, 7emayaa has reached 280,000 students. Ezzat’s future goal is to reach one million students, as well as reaching as many disadvantaged areas as possible.
You can get involved by contacting them on Facebook @7emayaa.