By Rana Amr

You are in the 3rd grade, you’re sitting on your bench in class reading the Arabic subject book with your teacher, and then you read a sentence that says, “My Mom prepares food while Dad reads the newspaper”.

You may not feel it, but that’s when the idea was planted in your mind, “Oh yeah, that’s what my mom does, and when I grow up I wanna cook for my beloved husband while he reads his daily newspaper and maybe my daughter would make him a cup of coffee too. How lovely!”

Early Life

We tackled one of the greatest issues in our interview with Hayat Mirshad, a Lebanese journalist who was from BBC’s top 100 influential and inspiring women in 2020. Hayat was raised in a traditional family; where there was a huge discrimination between women and men, not only in her family but also in school. She always thought “Why can’t we as girls play football in the playground just like boys do?”, “Why is camping allowed for boys only and not girls too?”. She always had a gut feeling that something was wrong, but society made her feel that this was the right thing.

Turning Point

This all changed when she read a book for the great writer Nawal ElSaadawi, for the first time someone told her that this is not normal, and that we must rebel against all these stupid and ignorant stereotypes and gender roles. She said that Nawal shaped her mind and that she owes her a lot, because without her she would have chosen the same road that most of the people have chosen, she wouldn’t have been the great Hayat Mirshad we know now.

What’s wrong with our society?

Hayat actually said all what we as women feel in our hearts, and she even made it more clear for us. She said the brutal truth; our society has set gender roles and stereotypes that concentrate on men’s authority, and ONLY men’s authority. It’s hard to face authority because men like the feeling of having it. So this, as a result, makes us as women completely marginalized.

She also mentioned that we are a double standards society, what does Hayat mean when she mentions double standards?

When certain things are okay for men but are wrong or shameful for women.

When you allow your son to do stuff that you think your daughter can’t or shouldn’t do.

When you think that women can’t protect themselves, and that men are their “protectors” or “superheroes” who will come on their white horses and lift us with our pink dresses and save us from our miserable reality to our Neverland.

Stop, stop, stop. Just stop.

These examples that you may think are silly or a bunch of nonsense, are actually the reason why most women grow up with low self-esteem, they are the reason why women think that men are worth so much more than them, that they are weak, and fragile. These ideas don’t come to their minds only at home by their families but also at school and by the mass media that has a pretty big role in shaping our minds too.

Because one part of the problems in our society is not enough, Hayat also mentioned that our society has a phobia called “The Phobia of Liberation of Women”. We want to marginalize you, and you can’t have freedom.

Why? Freedom is positive, freedom is beautiful.

No, to them, it isn’t for women.

To them it is okay:

If you were subjected to harassment,

If you got married under the age of 18,

If you were subjected to castration,

If you were killed under the excuse of “honor”.

But what’s utterly and completely not okay to men, is that women have their freedom to make a choice. That’s all because the patriarchy wants to remain in control.

Final Advice

No woman can succeed if she’s imprisoned in the customs and traditions of her society. You need to go against the mainstream.

For the mothers and fathers out there: Teach your children to accept others, to rebel, to ask questions, to think, to respect others’ points of view. Teach your children to love. Because if our society knew the meaning of loving, we wouldn’t have faced all these challenges.

We asked Hayat what advice would she give to the younger Hayat and other young teens, and this was her answer, “My advice is to not take anything for granted. Ask about anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, when you feel that someone took from your rights and your dignity, RAISE YOUR VOICE to question.

It’s your right to question, claim it. Claim your spaces. SPEAK UP. And I want to tell them that there are hundreds of women out there who want to support you and I am one of them, I am ready to give all my life to supporting women. Let’s practice solidarity. Let’s seek support from each other, we lift each other up. No one can make a change in the case of women’s rights more than women. We lead the change, and we get back our rights. And this only happens through support and speaking up.”


Prepared by: Mostafa Ahmed and Andrew

Interviewer: Hanya Sherif


Read on source, press here.