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The Egyptian Society’s Rejection of Girls’ Independence with Reference to the Series Why Not (ليه لأ, Leh Laa)

Samhita Mukhopadhyay, an American writer, clarifies, in the following quote, the importance of work and personal success for women, and that women should live and thrive outside of traditional norms, she says:


The notion that women should not care about personal success, or the work that gets them there, is disingenuous; it is impossible for women not to have jobs anymore, so it does not make sense to expect them to structure their lives around getting married. The real failure is our cultural incapacity to make room for women to live and thrive outside of traditional conceptions of femininity and relationships. After all, we can eat without marriage, but not without work (Mukhopadhyay).


The previous quote illustrates that women should break out of the traditional conceptions that have confined them for ages. Egyptian women should start to pay more attention to their independence, not to getting married. In order for women to be independent, they should first stop being financially dependent on their male guardians. Unfortunately, statistics showed that “Egyptian women's contribution to the labor force accounted for 14.3% of the total labor force (15 years and older) compared to 67.4% for men” (Saieed). These statistics prove that most Egyptian women are only allowed to contribute to the housework, not to any other work. Although independence is a vital quality that girls should possess, Egyptians still lay several obstacles for girls who decide to commence their independence journey. It is time now for Egyptians to stop blocking girls’ paths to independence. First, Egyptian girls need to understand clearly the concept of independence and the layers to it before they start their independence journey. Personal independence includes three main notions of independence. The article “How to Become More Independent in Life” explains the definition of personal independence and its types. The three main types of independence that girls need to obtain to feel empowered are emotional, mental, and financial independence. The essay provides detailed tips on how to achieve each of these types of independence. Finally, the article guides the readers on how to become more independent. According to this article, personal independence is trusting and relying on oneself and one’s abilities. The first type of independence; emotional independence, means relying on oneself for happiness. Second, mentally independent people are able to think for themselves. Finally, financially independent people either have a job that supports them, or they are in the lucky position to have enough savings to cover their living costs (Schmidt). The first two types of independence: mental and emotional independence can be achieved by getting more experience in interacting with others in social events, and by becoming more knowledgeable to one’s own independent thought. The last type of independence, which is financial independence; the only one that is targeted in this research as the other two types can be reached more easily as previously elaborated. Even though the issue of the rejection of girls’ independence was not the main focus of any work of art before, the modern series Leh Laa (Why Not) adopts this issue and tries to correct some of the misconceptions that Egyptians have about independent girls. The protagonist of this series, Aliaa, is a young girl whose family tries to rush into getting married. Despite all the complications that her mother and family lay in her path, not only does Aliaa leave her home, but she also starts to work in a local restaurant. She also partakes in a contest that supports independent girls, and overcomes all the challenges that she faces on her journey. This series sheds light on the constraints that Egyptian girls face when they decide to start their independence journey, and it also provides some solutions to break through those constraints. Girls’ independence should be encouraged and supported in all possible ways. Before discussing how girls’ independence can be enhanced in the Egyptian society, the roots of the problem, and the consequences that arise from this issue need to be studied first. There are several causes of the rejection of girls’ independence in Egypt, one of which is the ingrained misconceptions that Egyptians have about independent girls. For instance, some Egyptians consider financially independent girls as masculine or too powerful to be controlled. Another misconception that Egyptians have about girls’ independence is that they think independent girls are not worthy to be mothers. Egyptians believe that girls are born with one divine mission which is bringing up children. Besides, financially independent women, those women with free thought, cannot fulfill that divine mission properly as these women are self-centered. Most of these misconceptions are based on some traditional ideas that have no valid explanations. For instance, Egyptians believe that women were born with domestic housework listed as their main duty, so they fear that if women gain their independence, they might not serve their major tasks. Moreover, some Egyptians fear that women might bring shame to the family if they get completely independent. This rejection of girls’ independence has caused major consequences that cannot be easily compensated as many generations of women have been raised to be empty-headed, inexperienced, and unable to function outside their homes. They also lack the wisdom they can get by working and dealing with the outer world; besides, their mental abilities are too limited to even play their main role efficiently, the role imposed by their society, of being mothers and wives. Lacking independence makes Egyptian girls more likely to be controlled and led by others. Dependent girls do not have a solid ground to stand on; that is why they cannot get out of a toxic marriage or house. After inspecting the causes and consequences of the rejection of girls’ independence in Egypt, girls’ independence can be enhanced by educating Egyptians on the benefits of girls’ independence, enhancing girls’ financial independence; granting Egyptian girls the freedom to choose to live on their own and have completely independent homes.


      Girls’ independence can be enhanced by educating Egyptians on the benefits of independence for girls. Hopefully, there are some efforts that have been made by social media activists towards spreading knowledge about girls’ empowerment and independence. For example, there are some groups and campaigns that have been created to support those girls who are trying to build up their independent life. For example, “Femi-Hub” is a campaign that was created to help spread the importance of girls’ independence among Egyptians and educate them on the benefits of independence. Besides, it supports, in all possible ways, those women who want to commence their independence journey. However, the core issue is not only the lack of education that Egyptians have on women’s independence or rights, it is also that Egyptian people refuse to get educated about women’s issues, or else they fight those who try to support women in their independence paths. They presume that those who encourage women to be independent are misleading women. For instance, Aliaa’s mother represents that particular type of Egyptians as she refuses to accept Aliaa’s independence at first, and she tries to keep her locked at the house. This is down to her believing that Aliaa is having mad thoughts and stupid ideas. Moreover, Aliaa’s mother thinks that if she prevents Aliaa from going out, Aliaa will get calm and forget about these ideas she has. On the contrary, what happens is the opposite of what Aliaa’s mother expected as Aliaa leaves the home at night and escapes. That is why Egyptians need to understand that resisting girls’ independence will not help eliminate the desire that girls have for independence, but it will force girls to detach themselves from their families in order to get the independence and the freedom that they have a right to as human beings.


 After educating Egyptians about the failure of their resistance towards girls’ independence, the benefits of independence for girls should be emphasized for all Egyptians. The positive change that happens in Aliaa’s personality is a valid implementation of how independence can benefit girls. While tackling this change, the audience of the series can see how Aliaa, after getting independent, discovers what she is passionate about; gains the success she would have never gotten if she had stayed at home, and accepted being a housewife. Moreover, Aliaa becomes more persistent and enthusiastic; for instance, she finds out about her passion for photography and starts pursuing it. Although she faces some hardships after getting into the field of photography, she keeps pursuing her dreams until she becomes a well-known photographer due to her creativity. That is why Egyptians should be educated about how independence can bring about limitless benefits for Egyptian girls. In the article “The Benefits of Being an Independent Woman”, it is stated that being independent makes any girl or woman strong enough to get out of any toxic relationship or to even escape domestic violence. Being independent also gives girls the freedom to choose how to spend their time and money on what they are passionate about as no one can impose any power on them. Independence helps girls create their own desired lifestyle, makes them open-minded, and gives them the ability to connect with others in a genius way (Caston). For instance, Aliaa, after becoming independent, changes her lifestyle like how she has always desired. She becomes free to schedule her day the way she wants, learns to cook the food that she desires, starts going to the gym, and starts working. Aliaa also gets better at communicating with others and building strong relationships with her co-workers. The article “11 Reasons Why You Need To Be More Independent”, provides more beneficial aspects that independence guarantees for girls. It is also an inspiration for those girls who dream to be independent. The article explains that, first, by facing hardships and challenges through their independence journey, girls will gain knowledge and more experience in overcoming any difficulties that they might face in their lives. Besides, they will be self-confident about the decisions they take and will gain high self-esteem. Second, independence teaches girls to be capable of meeting their own needs, without being constantly in need of others’ help and support in even the smallest details of their everyday life. Therefore, Egyptian parents will have their load lightened as every individual in the family will be dependent on him/herself. Independence teaches girls to learn to assist and support others. Besides, it helps girls prove their liability at work as independent individuals are more eager to complete their tasks at work, or in life generally, without the constant need for assistance from others. Thirdly, independence leads to financial freedom and empowerment. Moreover, it helps girls work and provide for themselves to be prepared for the future. Fourth, independence teaches girls to have independent thought and be able to make their own decisions (Hammond). An example of how independence can grant several benefits to girls is the change that has happened in Aliaa’s life and personality. For instance, Aliaa’s mindset changes completely as at the beginning of the series, she feels afraid and scared and she is unable to say “no” to her mother about the arranged marriage that her mother sets for her. However, after becoming independent, Aliaa becomes more confident to take well-planned steps in her life. For example, she puts a plan for herself to follow to achieve her dreams one at a time, and she becomes more open-minded as she starts to be capable of understanding her co-workers’ mindsets. In addition, she manages to save the restaurant that she works at from a dilemma it faces by taking the right decision and her manager rewards her. She also grows an affection towards saving homeless animals; in addition to devoting part of her time to helping the sick pets of the street and finding suitable shelters for them. Most importantly, independence makes Aliaa more mature; moreover, it gives her a wise personality that inspires and affects all humans in her life. For example, she manages, in the end, to change part of her mother’s and uncle’s personalities. Aliaa also leads her father’s factory into great success by her innovative thoughts that her uncle refuses at first.


 In conclusion, independence builds up strong, intelligent, successful women, it does not encourage girls to do immoral deeds as many Egyptians think. That is why the misconceptions that Egyptians have about girls’ independence should be uprooted and the correction of these mistaken conceptions, with the education on the benefits of girls’ independence, should be ingrained in Egyptians’ minds instead.


Independence has several types, but the most vital one that Egyptian females lack the most, and the one that they need to gain before all the other types of independence is financial independence. For that previous reason, Egyptian girls’ complete independence can be enhanced by first gaining their financial independence. In order for Egyptian girls to be financially independent, they need to understand what financial independence is. Financially independent people either have a job that supports them, or they are in the lucky position to have enough savings to cover their living costs (Schmidt). According to statistics made on the Egyptian society, the female labor force contribution rate was 14.3% in 2020 while, in 2019. It was 15.6%, indicating that the male labor force contribution rate is more than three times that of females (Mohamed). These statistics not only reveal the fact that Egyptian women do not have financial independence or do not contribute to the labor force, but it also sheds light on the fact that the rate of the female labor force is decreasing. The rate of the Egyptian female labor force can be increased by studying the major reasons why Egyptian women are still unable to gain financial independence.


Egyptian girls and women, in general, do not even have the complete freedom to choose to work and to be financially independent due to several factors. One of those factors is the guardianship system that is imposed by the Egyptian society on females. Although guardianship is defined as “a legal process used to protect individuals who are unable to care for their own well-being due to infancy, incapacity or disability” (“Guardianships”). Egypt forces a guardianship system on girls and women as if they were disabled or infants. Women do not have the right to control their lives or to take even basic decisions in their daily lives, like the decision to work because of the guardianship system. This male guardianship has been hindering girls’ independence for ages; that is why this system should be eradicated as it is time now for women to have the freedom to choose to work. Girls will not be able to gain the independence they need in their life’s journey if they stay controlled by their male guardians. In order to get rid of this male guardian system, the government should issue some laws to protect those girls who are unable to work from the control imposed on them by their male guardians. If any girl has the desire to start her career and her financial independence, she should be able to take this step without fear by knowing that there are laws to protect her and give her the freedom to take the decision of work.


Girls’ financial independence can be enhanced by enhancing the financial independence of Egyptian girls. First, Egyptian females should be granted more opportunities in the labor force, especially in the rural areas as Egyptian women who live in rural areas have fewer opportunities than the ones who live in the lively areas of Egypt. This solution has been studied recently by the government and is in the process of being implemented at the moment. According to the new research that was made by The Newspaper of Money, the National Council of Women, the Central Bank of Egypt, the European Union, the Embassy of the Netherlands, and UN Women in Egypt have launched a new project entitled "Empowering women and promoting financial and economic inclusion in rural Egypt". This project has the objective of providing more than 120,000 women in Minya, Beni Suef, Assiut, and Sohag governorates with decent work opportunities. It also intends to enhance women's access to financial services. Besides, the project will support small women-led enterprises in rural areas. This project targets the expansion of women's economic independence and the increase of Egyptian women’s ability to earn a living. Moreover, it supports women’s roles in the Egyptian society, in the belief that women are the builders and innovators of tomorrow (El-Said et al.).


In the series Why Not (ليه لأ, Leh Laa), Aliaa, the protagonist, seeks the financial independence she needs in order to have an independent life that is not controlled by her mother and family. However, her uncle; her male legal guardian, prevents her from working in the factory that was her father’s before he died as her uncle thinks she should marry and be a housewife. She has no right to work unless she gets married and her husband, which will be her new legal guardian who can approve of her desire to work. If there were some laws that give women the freedom to choose to work and break any power male guardians have, Aliaa would have gone to the police and required her right to work in her father’s factory legally. Besides, Aliaa’s uncle would have not felt so free to control her and prevent her from her rights. Regardless of all the efforts her mother and uncle exert to prevent her from getting the independence she seeks, Aliaa abandons her home and her father’s factory and she finds a job in a local restaurant. Working in that local restaurant helps Aliaa to be financially independent and get rid of the guardianship of her uncle that is imposed by the Egyptian society on her. It also gives her the freedom to make decisions on her own, most importantly, the basic decisions of her everyday life which she could not take when she was financially dependent on her family. For instance, she could finally get a haircut as she always desired. Although it is a very simple decision, in the past, Aliaa, a grown-up thirty-year-old woman, could not take that decision as her mother did not allow her to have her hair cut. Being financially independent helps her also choose the career that she has always dreamt of; photography. Not only does Aliaa join the field of photography, but she also gains an excellent experience from the hardships she goes through and the tough lessons that she learns from working with a well-known photographer. To sum up, Egyptian females can gain their independence by being financially independent first as it is the most vital type of independence that can grant Egyptian girls several open doors to their complete independence.


One of the major steps that one should take in order to gain complete independence and control over their lives, is owning a home or a habitat. The idea of Egyptian girls having complete independence and homes of their own has been rejected by the Egyptian society throughout all ages. Even if a girl has a precious opportunity for work or education, but she has to move out to another town in order to be granted this opportunity, her parents can force her to decline that opportunity and stay with them until she gets married. In the series Why Not (ليه لأ, Leh Laa), Aliaa, faces this issue, as an Egyptian girl; her mother refuses to allow her to move out and live alone in order to partake in a foreign contest that supports women. That is why the rejection of Egyptian girls living alone has been a huge obstacle for so many girls. In order to help enhance Egyptian girls’ independence, girls need to be granted the freedom to choose to live on their own and have completely independent lives.


First, Egyptian parents reject the idea of their daughters living alone or having a separate house for several reasons. One of these reasons is that Egyptian parents claim that they are keeping their daughter safe by having her live with them until she gets married. Then she would have a house with a husband; a man to protect her. On the one hand, Egyptian parents claim that they prevent their daughter from living alone because they love her and fear for her life. On the other hand, they easily allow their son to live alone which, for sure, does not mean that they do not love their son, or that they do want to protect him. A second reason is that Egyptian parents always pay attention to what others may say about them if they allow their daughters to live alone without a male guardian. This is due to the Egyptian community always perceiving girls who live alone as unrespectable. One of the other reasons why Egyptian parents do not allow their daughters to live alone is that they do not trust them or trust that they have deep-rooted manners. Moreover, Egyptian parents think that girls who live alone are more likely to misbehave or commit sins.


After studying the reasons why girls are not allowed to have the complete freedom to choose to live on their own, the obstacles that girls actually face after getting the opportunity to live on their own should be studied too, then eradicated. First, those girls who were able to break from their dependency chain with their family find it so difficult to find an apartment or a suitable place to live in for several reasons. One of these reasons is that Egyptian brokers somehow grant themselves the right to ask so many questions about why that girl wants to live alone. In addition, they feel free to ask private questions about the girl’s family and life. Besides, some of those brokers refuse to help the girl find an apartment if there are no mandatory reasons why that girl is willing to live alone, or else some brokers might ask for a lot of money and take advantage of the girl’s need for a suitable home. Some landowners, too, refuse to rent their apartments to any girl who does not have a male guardian to live with as they think that having a single female tenant in their building will bring them lots of problems. Moreover, some of those landowners cause constant annoyance, in several ways, to the girl after renting the apartment to her. There are other issues that Egyptian girls face after managing to own a home; for instance, they face an intrusion into their private lives from their neighbors. Some Egyptian neighbors feel free to ask them about what they do for work or when they finish or start their work shift. In addition to that, the neighbors of the girl, who lives alone, give themselves the right to comment on the way she dresses, they also ask about the identities of those who visit her. Finally, one of the other major issues that any girl, who lives alone, faces is that some of her co-workers think that she is more likely to do any immoral deed as they think that she is free from any moral restrictions as there is no male guardian to watch her. However, in the series Why Not (ليه لأ, Leh Laa), Aliaa, the protagonist, represents a decent example of the single girl, who lives alone, but still maintains her deeply-rooted principles. For example, Aliaa’s neighbor tries to lure her into having an open-minded relationship with him, but she puts an end to his behavior from the start and she refuses to even give him the chance to get close to her. This part of the series proves that the stereotype that Egyptians have about the girls who live alone is completely incorrect as it sets an example of Aliaa; a girl who lives alone but is still well-mannered and decent.


In order to grant Egyptian girls the right to choose to live on their own, Egyptian parents should be educated on the positive impacts that living alone can have on their daughters. For instance, living alone can make any individual more responsible by learning how to depend on themselves regarding many matters in their lives like the household chores or the financial management of their income. Living alone can help girls build strong independent personalities; besides, it can teach girls to understand themselves more. By having no one to impose any choices on them, girls can make their own choices and be themselves. By living alone, girls will learn to be free while they themselves set borders to the freedom they have. They will be free to make choices, yet they will start being aware of the consequences their choices might bring. For instance, they will have the freedom to make friendships with any member of their community. They will be aware that now there are no adults around to guide them, so they need to choose the right friends. Girls will start carrying their own responsibility and face the consequences of the choices they make. As time goes by, girls will learn more from their previous choices, and that will make them more confident, strong, and independent. For the following reasons, Egyptian parents should start supporting their girls to start their own independent life. Instead of keeping their daughters around and having them in front of their eyes to make sure that their daughters do not commit any sins. Egyptian parents should invest in bringing up strong well-mannered girls who are capable of making wise decisions in their lives, and who are not easily deviated.


After educating the Egyptian parents on all the positive aspects of having their daughters living alone, the Egyptian community as a whole should normalize the idea of girls living alone and should stop making it hard for Egyptian girls to be independent and have their own habitats. Egyptians should understand that civilized humans do not judge girls or women only just because they are independent. They should also be educated more on how not to invade the private space of their neighbors, especially if those neighbors are girls or women. The government can help in solving this issue by providing safe premises for those girls or women who intend to live on their own. Egyptian girls need to find premises where there are no greedy landowners or brokers to exploit them just because they are in need of a safe dwelling, and where there are no neighbors who intrude on their private lives.          


 


To sum up, independence can bring up strong girls with great personalities; that is why Egyptians need to enhance the independence of their girls. Girls’ independence can be enhanced first by educating Egyptians on the benefits of independence. Second, by enhancing girls’ financial independence. Finally, by granting Egyptian girls the freedom to choose to live on their own and have completely independent homes. In order to find solutions for the rejection of girls’ independence in Egypt, the causes of this issue should be studied; besides, Egyptians should be educated on the importance of independence for their girls. After getting educated on independence importance, Egyptians may be more open-minded regarding girls’ independence. One of the other points that are worth discussing is the enhancement of the financial independence of Egyptian girls as there are still numerous women and girls who are unable to work due to the refusal of their male guardians. That is why the male guardianship system in Egypt should be ended. The government should provide decent work opportunities for all Egyptian women including the women who live in rural areas who have fewer work opportunities. Last but not least, women should get educated on how their financial independence can be beneficial for them and for their future. After enhancing the financial independence of girls in Egypt, the freedom of girls to have separate homes and completely independent lives should be encouraged. Not all women and girls are capable of moving out of their homes and starting their own independent lives, for their parents do not allow it. Even if some girls are able to move out, they find it hard to find a home to live in peacefully. The series Why Not (ليه لأ, Leh Laa), tackles the issue of the rejection of girls’ independence thoroughly as it sheds light on all the misconceptions that Egyptians have about girls’ independence. Moreover, it highlights every aspect of the issue and resolves it efficiently. That is why more works like this series should be produced to help educate the Egyptian community on women’s issues and rights. In the end, Egyptian women should feel free to choose the path of independence, with the help of all Egyptians to get rid of the obstacles that hinder these ambitious girls from reaching for the stars.


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