Aliaa, an artist in Egypt, has been working with women in the small fishing village of El Max for several years, helping them develop skills and strengthening their community. We wrote about Aliaa's group, Gudran, which is helping this fishing village regain its economic health and local pride, in September. Here's the story of the work Aliaa is doing, in her own words.
Looking for a chance
by Aliaa El Gready, artistic counselor, Gudran Association for Art and Development, Egypt
There are many people who work to help women, whether on economic or social issues, issues within the family, and others. In my time in the Egyptian fishing village of El Max, Alexandria, I have focused on this question: What does a woman here miss and need in her life?
I am a woman in an Arab community who chose art as a way of life and a path to self-achievement. Art has helped me greatly to understand myself and to strengthen all my abilities, not only the artistic ones. Knowing this about myself, and in getting to know the women of that village and women in other similar communities, I came to realize something: What a woman needs is to value herself and be valued by others.
So often, a woman, as a mother and wife, keeps giving and sacrificing without appreciation. What she does is seen by her community as her duty, particularly in poor communities without much education.
In my experience, women tend toward artistic thoughts and manual crafts. They, in their families, choose the colors and shapes of utensils and clothes, for example. This a significant. It means that if a creative space is made for her and by her, she will use it to prove herself.
When I started working with women and girls in the fishing village, we asked them for their ideas in workshops. They learned, in these workshops, to make pieces of clothing by hand, sewing and embroidering. This work deepened their desire for more self-discovery.
Now, the women run a small integrated workshop, where they produce work and teach others. The work inspired them to begin looking for knowledge outside their usual boundaries, and to connect with others, and now I think they are on their way to success, self-fulfillment, and helping their community.