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Egypt launches first feminist comic-strip magazine - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Egyptian women protest against sexual harassment in Cairo, Egypt, on June 14, 2014. (Ahmed Ismail/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Egyptian women protest against sexual harassment in Cairo, Egypt, on June 14, 2014.
(Ahmed Ismail/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—For Egyptians, the word, “El-Shakmageya,” conjures up images of a grandmother presenting her soon-to-be-wed granddaughter with an intricately decorated wooden box filled with the family’s trinkets and heirlooms. The Shakmageya—OttomanÓTurkish for “safe place”—is a traditional keepsake box, often ornately decorated in ivory, mother of pearl, copper or gold.

But the scene here is somewhat different with the publication of the first issue of El-Shakmageya magazine, which addresses thorny social issues in Egyptian society using the power of words, a quill and color, in a bid to end the state of silence and denial surrounding taboos concerning women.

A group of comic-strip artists, caricaturists and storytellers worked together to create the visual narrative. “El-Shakmageya is different from all other comics in Egypt because it pertains to women’s affairs and the daily events here,” cartoonist Makhlouf told Asharq Al-Awsat. “One of my caricatures was published in the first issue; it was a compilation of pictorial stories and caricatures.”

The magazine’s first issue deals with sexual harassment and violence against women. The launch party was held in the French Institute in Cairo at the end of October.

The quarterly magazine is produced by Nazra for Feminist Studies, an NGO that aims to establish a vibrant Egyptian feminist movement. The organization works towards raising awareness of gender issues in both the private and public spheres.

Egypt suffers from widespread gender-based violence. In a 2013 joint report published by a UN agency, the Empowerment of Women, Egypt’s Demographic Center, and the National Planning Institute, 99.3 percent of Egyptian women surveyed said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment.

The problem is also prevalent within home life. The National Council for Women of Egypt recently conducted a pilot study as part of its project to tackle violence against women, which found that 62.2 percent of the women studied said they were subject to psychological violence committed by their husbands.