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Egyptian Mum Honoured for Dressing as a Man to Earn a Living

Awarded the 'Woman Breadwinner' accolade by Egypt's government, Sisa Abu Daooh has been disguising herself as a man and doing manual labour for 43 years in order to provide for her family.

Just in time for Mother’s Day, an Egyptian mother in Luxor was honoured by the government for dressing as a man for 43 years in order to provide for her family. In a society where the local culture makes it difficult for women in the workplace, the now 64-year-old Sisa Abu Daooh took to disguising herself as a man to earn a better living for her and her daughter. This Tuesday, The Social Solidarity Directorate of Luxor said it was awarding her the ‘Woman Breadwinner’ award for her years of hard work, hailing her as the ‘ideal mother’ for her sacrifice and ingenuity, as reported by Al Arabiya News.

After her husband died while she was pregnant, Abu Daooh was left without a viable source of income. Instead of taking to the streets to beg, and knowing full well life was not easy for a women in a workplace dominated by men, she instead went to work as a man, donning a men's galabeya, as well as a white turban, and black men’s shoes. She worked in various jobs usually done by men, including basic construction, polishing shoes, and agriculture. “To protect myself from men and the harshness of their looks and being targeted by them due to traditions, I decided to be a man … and dressed in their clothes and worked alongside them in other villages where no one knows me,” she says. “I preferred working in hard labour like lifting bricks and cement bags and cleaning shoes to begging in the streets in order to earn a living for myself and for my daughter and her children.”

At one point, she married her daughter to a man to provide for her, but once he fell ill and was unable to work, Abu Daooh continued her work as the primary breadwinner for her family. Currently, this resourceful woman, and incredible mother, says she earns a “decent income” polishing shoes. Hoda, her daughter, said, “My mum is the one who still provides for the family. She wakes up every day at 6 AM to start polishing shoes at the station in Luxor. I carry the work kits for her as she [is] now advanced in age.”

Abu Daooh is definitely an inspirational female and we dare you to get to the end of this article without feeling insanely touched. She also extended her gratitude to those who have helped her over the years, saying “Thanks to everyone who has helped me. I hope to see Egypt in a better situation.” So do we. It would be a great world where a women didn’t have to dress as a man in order to fee less uncomfortable and to earn decent wage. 

Photos courtesy of Al Arabiya News.


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