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Egypt women turn to cycling in fight for equality

Feminist movement Girls' Revolution introduce their We Will Ride Bikes initiative...

Women in Egypt are looking to cycling and an online movement named Girls’ Revolution to try and make their voices heard.

Through their We Will Ride Bikes initiative, Girls' Revolution are looking to start turning the wheel of change. The initiative encourages women to ignore the "unladylike" social stigma that is attached to cycling in Egypt, and take to the streets of Cairo on their bicycles.

One of the founders of the movement, 22 year-old Ghadeer Ahmed told the Egypt Independent that the movement’s main objective was “breaking the shackles of unjustified social taboos”.

Yet, the women of Egypt will arguably be battling against much more than the unjustified social taboos which surround cycling.

Recently categorised as the worst country in the Arab world to be a woman by a Thomson Reuters Foundation study, Egypt’s sexual harassment and gender inequality problems are a daily obstacle for the female population.

And there appears to be a large backing for such a confrontation. The 89,457 likes on the Girls’ Revolution Facebook page are an indication that the female population of Egypt are ready for change.

Mera Kamel is one of many Egyptians to have expressed their disgust on the facebook page at what she describes as a “sick two-faced society.”

Ms Kamel wrote on the page: “Just because you're a girl you simply can't [ride a bicycle]. What was their reason this time? Too sexy? Too attractive? It's like we live in a jungle with animals who can't control themselves.

“Of course we hear lots of sexual, sexist humiliating comments from every man (i am not exaggerating) in street.”

Kamel’s facebook post concluded with a rallying call to the women of Egypt: “My question is, is it ever going to stop? we will never give up! #we #will #ride #bikes”

The huge problem that sexual harassment poses in the country is clear through the comments and posts on the facebook page. Yet, despite using bicycles as their tool toward equality, the women of Girls' Revolution are also peddling the concept that cycling will benefit the Egyptian population as an alternative mode of transport.

Michael Nazeh, another founder of movement, expressed the importance of getting more people in Egypt cycling.

“We need to spread the culture of riding bicycles in Egypt.” Nazeh told the Egypt Independent. “It is an environmentally friendly alternative to other modes of transport and an escape from getting stuck in the daily traffic jam,”

Mera Kamel also wrote about the financial benefits of cycling: “I don't have lots of money to pay to taxis every time i go to work or school, I am a ‘struggling student’. I don't have enough to buy a car in a good shape! Also it's good exercise.”

But following a string of protests around Saudi Arabia this year against laws preventing women from driving and riding bikes, there appears to be a progressive mentality amongst Middle Eastern women that change is possible.

And rather than using a fight against discriminatory legislation to mask a battle for equality, the women of Egypt are directly riding against their country's misogynist social expectations and unequal gender roles.

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