- Title: EGYPT-PUPPET THEATRE Egyptian activist addresses social issues with puppet show
- Date: 28th July 2015
- Summary: REFAAT AND PARTNER, MOHAMED BAYOUMI, PLAYING WITH PUPPETS PUPPETS DANCING
- Embargoed: 12th August 2015 13:00
- Location: Egypt
- Country: Egypt
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVADMMB9W5TRL75CHWSJPXFMHYG2
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: A female activist in Egypt is trying to raise awareness of the social hardships faced by women in the country, with the help of puppets, songs and sketches.
Lawyer Rania Refaat attempts to highlight the harassment and inequalities faced by Egyptian women at home, at work and in the street on a daily basis, by creating a theatre which uses puppets to relay how women deal with these issues.
Refaat, who owns "El Pergola" - a political awareness puppet theatre - says her eventual goal is to build a theatre that provides legal awareness on the rights and obligations of citizens.
"Of course the definite mix between the puppet theatre and the law is that I am aiming to create a theatre of law. Many people do not know their rights and it is tough trying to explain the law. I tried giving law lectures but I found out that it is difficult for people to comprehend. I found that the only solution is to make it in the form of simple marionettes or sketches which can reach out to the people," said Refaat.
Refaat, who used to manage the reputable cultural hub "Al Sawy Cultural Wheel", handcrafts the puppets from scratch and works with a team of 15 young men and women to perform the puppet show at different spots in Cairo, including bus stops and local cafes.
"The puppet theatre brings everything together -- the writing, the directing, the acting, the singing, and the crafting. I have a team of 15 young men and women who can enter the school of El Pergola (puppet theatre) where they can be taught. They can then demonstrate the act on the streets or at bus stops - we performed at the Rod Al Farag bus stop. We performed at Port Said cafes. We then hold discussions and hand out gifts to the people," explained Refaat.
One of the puppeteers that work with Refaat, Mohamed Bayoumi, said that puppets appeal to young and old people alike and can be used to raise awareness on how women are treated in Egyptian society.
''It isn't the only way, but it's a way to make people aware, it's a way that you can show people from your point of view, and that's one of the main goals of our theatre. To tell those that don't know, others might use puppet theatres for other means of awareness, everyone has their own way. But the puppets deliver a message, young people like them, older people like them, so you can deliver the message that you want.'' said Bayoumi.
Sexual harassment, high rates of female genital cutting and a surge in violence and Islamist feeling after the Arab Spring uprisings have made Egypt the worst country in the Arab world to be a woman, according to a 2013 Thomson Reuters Foundation survey.
Discriminatory laws and a spike in trafficking also contributed to Egypt's place at the bottom of a ranking of 22 Arab states, the survey found.
Despite hopes that women would be one of the prime beneficiaries of the Arab Spring, they have instead been some of the biggest losers, as the revolts have brought conflict, instability, displacement and a rise in Islamist groups in many parts of the region, experts said.
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