Page last updated at 16:05 GMT, Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Egypt women blog for their rights

Banat wa Bas
Banat wa Bas is not afraid to let contributors express their views

From the BBC Arabic Service

Young Egyptian women are using blogs and online radio stations to beat the censors and to fight for equality.

Despite making up only 24% of the workforce in Egypt, 30% of women use the internet.

But it is the middle and upper classes that have really taken to the internet as an alternative way to discuss topics and exchange information and air what many conservatives would consider to be radical views.

Often exploiting the anonymity afforded by the internet they tell personal stories, share political and cultural views, post favourite pictures, and talk about their daily frustrations.

What can I do?

Egyptian blogger Dalia Ziada called on Saudi Arabia to end what she considers discrimination against young Muslim women, in a campaign timed to coincide with the Prophet Muhammad's birthday.

"I am not allowed to do Omra [a lesser pilgrimage to Mecca]! Why? Because I am a young woman under the age of 45! The only solution for me to get to my beloved Prophet's land is to be accompanied by a male chaperone. My mother is not enough!!" says Dalia.

My blog is a way to remind myself that I am not alone
Anonymous blogger

"Do you know what a male chaperone is? A first-degree male relative: father, brother, husband, or son! I am in a big trouble, then.

"My father is dead, my two brothers are not interested and I cannot afford to pay for their tickets. I do not have a husband and of course I do not have a son! What can I do, now?" she says.

Obsession with virginity

Another blogger who wanted to remain anonymous, writes about her past as a drug addict and has criticised what she calls Arab society's "continuing obsession with female virginity.

"My blog is a way to remind myself that I am not alone, Even if no one reads it, I would still keep writing," she says.

Another significant way in which the blogosphere is being used to change Egyptian society is that it is one of the few public spaces in Egypt where men and women are represented more-or-less equally.

It makes collaboration on social issues possible between men and women.

Subjects that are taboo on the street can be discussed online.

They discuss issues such as sexual harassment, which is often pigeon-holed in Egypt as a "woman's problem".

Radical radio

Egyptian women are also putting themselves on the map of audio blogging, which is a cheap and censorship-free growing web trend.

If you are always at risk of being sexually harassed, what kind of life is this?

Amani Tunsi

Banat wa Bas or "Girls only" is the first online Arabic radio station entirely run by women and which addresses their issues. It is one of a growing list of online stations that have sprung up in Egypt including Horytna (Our Freedom) and Teet (an Arabic reference to the censor's "beep").

Banat wa Bas was started by a 25-year-old computer science graduate, Amani Tunsi, who was frustrated with how women are treated in Egyptian society.

"We are almost not living. If you are always at risk of being sexually harassed everywhere, What kind of life is this? " she asks.

Banat wa Bas currently offers listeners a variety of shows, including Mosh Kol al-Teir, which is an Egyptian proverb ("Not all the Birds") to say not all girls are easy to fool. The show revolves around the tricks used by Egyptian men to pick up women.

Banat wa Bas is not afraid to let its contributors express opinions about what is in the news, and they can get away with it because using the internet means they can steer clear of government censorship.

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