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  • As an Arab female photographer,

  • I have always found ample inspiration for my projects in personal experiences.

  • The passion I developed for knowledge,

  • which allowed me to break barriers towards a better life

  • was the motivation for my project I Read I Write.

  • Pushed by my own experience,

  • as I was not allowed initially to pursue my higher education,

  • I decided to explore and document stories of other women

  • who changed their lives through education,

  • while exposing and questioning the barriers they face.

  • I covered a range of topics that concern women's education,

  • keeping in mind the differences among Arab countries

  • due to economic and social factors.

  • These issues include female illiteracy, which is quite high in the region;

  • educational reforms; programs for dropout students;

  • and political activism among university students.

  • As I started this work,

  • it was not always easy to convince the women to participate.

  • Only after explaining to them

  • how their stories might influence other women's lives,

  • how they would become role models for their own community, did some agree.

  • Seeking a collaborative and reflexive approach,

  • I asked them to write their own words and ideas

  • on prints of their own images.

  • Those images were then shared in some of the classrooms,

  • and worked to inspire and motivate other women

  • going through similar educations and situations.

  • Aisha, a teacher from Yemen, wrote,

  • "I sought education in order to be independent

  • and to not count on men with everything."

  • One of my first subjects was Umm El-Saad from Egypt.

  • When we first met, she was barely able to write her name.

  • She was attending a nine-month literacy program

  • run by a local NGO in the Cairo suburbs.

  • Months later, she was joking that her husband

  • had threatened to pull her out of the classes,

  • as he found out that his now literate wife

  • was going through his phone text messages.

  • (Laughter)

  • Naughty Umm El-Saad.

  • Of course, that's not why Umm El-Saad joined the program.

  • I saw how she was longing to gain control over her simple daily routines,

  • small details that we take for granted,

  • from counting money at the market to helping her kids in homework.

  • Despite her poverty and her community's mindset,

  • which belittles women's education,

  • Umm El-Saad, along with her Egyptian classmates,

  • was eager to learn how to read and write.

  • In Tunisia, I met Asma,

  • one of the four activist women I interviewed.

  • The secular bioengineering student is quite active on social media.

  • Regarding her country, which treasured what has been called the Arab Spring.

  • she said, "I've always dreamt of discovering a new bacteria.

  • Now, after the revolution, we have a new one every single day."

  • Asma was referring to the rise of religious fundamentalism in the region,

  • which is another obstacle to women in particular.

  • Out of all the women I met, Fayza from Yemen affected me the most.

  • Fayza was forced to drop out of school at the age of eight when she was married.

  • That marriage lasted for a year.

  • At 14, she became the third wife of a 60-year-old man,

  • and by the time she was 18, she was a divorced mother of three.

  • Despite her poverty,

  • despite her social status as a divorcée in an ultra-conservative society,

  • and despite the opposition of her parents to her going back to school,

  • Fayza knew that her only way to control her life was through education.

  • She is now 26.

  • She received a grant from a local NGO

  • to fund her business studies at the university.

  • Her goal is to find a job, rent a place to live in,

  • and bring her kids back with her.

  • The Arab states are going through tremendous change,

  • and the struggles women face are overwhelming.

  • Just like the women I photographed,

  • I had to overcome many barriers to becoming the photographer I am today,

  • many people along the way telling me what I can and cannot do.

  • Umm El-Saad, Asma and Fayza, and many women across the Arab world,

  • show that it is possible to overcome barriers to education,

  • which they know is the best means to a better future.

  • And here I would like to end with a quote by Yasmine,

  • one of the four activist women I interviewed in Tunisia.

  • Yasmine wrote,

  • "Question your convictions.

  • Be who you to want to be, not who they want you to be.

  • Don't accept their enslavement, for your mother birthed you free."

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

As an Arab female photographer,

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B1 TED arab umm education yemen tunisia

【TED】Laura Boushnak: For these women, reading is a daring act (Laura Boushnak: For these women, reading is a daring act)

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    CUChou posted on 2015/05/27
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