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BuSSy: a place for untold gender stories in Egypt

A group of passionate young Egyptian women and men with a strong belief in the value and impact of theatre for social change are shaking things up in Egypt. These young people are part of the BuSSy project.

Almost 10 years ago, Egyptian University students started the BuSSy project to tell the stories of women by women using monologue performances. The BuSSY team says the performances allow people to write their own narratives and perform them on stage.

According to the BuSSy project website: “In 2010, BuSSy transitioned from a university-affiliated group to an independent theatre project holding a number of performances on stages all over Egypt. Over time, BuSSy performances began incorporating stories from both women and men; and today, the project extends beyond “women’s issues” as BuSSy now aims to tackle the complexity of gender issues from the perspectives of both women and men.”

Through an ambitious crowdfunding campaign, the BuSSy team is hoping to amass the funds necessary to have a safe place to call their own in order to hold regular and uncensored workshops and performances that allow people to recount their everyday stories of harassment all the way to the more complex stories of female genital mutilation or sexual orientation and gender identity issues.

Nadia Elboubkri is the BuSSy project manager and Shady Abdullah is the BuSSy project and workshop coordinator. The Young Feminist Wire spoke to them about the impact that the BuSSy project has had on young Egyptian women and men.

Elboubkri says having a stable space to hold the BuSSy workshops is important. “We are giving women and men a space where they are supposed to feel safe and not judged but the physical space to hold workshops and rehearsals keeps moving. As a result, we’ve had rehearsals in living rooms, parking lots, random places really, because a lot of it has to do with financially being able to find a space that will accommodate us. Some people just don’t want us in their spaces because we talk about issues that are perceived to be immoral or taboo. So as we create our own intangible safe space for women and men to talk about their experiences, we also need a tangible, physical safe space.”

BuSSy’s workshops not only create safe spaces for the women and men who participate in them but they also allow them to speak openly about all the experiences that they may not otherwise be able to talk about and these are usually gender-related issues and experiences.

Abdullah says having spaces to be able to freely talk about harassment, abuse and sexual violence through facilitated storytelling sessions is not something easily available for Egyptian youth. For example, at a recent workshop in the city of Assiut, in Upper Egypt, Abdullah says there was something powerful in having one young person hear other young people talk without shame about their experiences. “When one person starts sharing about a specific issue that they have also been grappling with, others feel that they are not alone. This really makes a difference. Suddenly, youth are able to identify that the problem doesn’t lie within them. That daily harassment, or domestic abuse or even a rape is a larger, societal problem and it is a really empowering realization for people to say these things out loud, because it melts away the shame and stigma associated with these experiences.”

Video courtesy of BuSSy 

Elboubkri says not everyone can be part of the workshops and be part of the performances but when BuSSy puts on a show in Cairo for example, it brings out a lot of people and it raises awareness and starts a conversation and those conversations continue beyond the performances, even continuing into virtual spaces. She explains: “Our engagement online increases after our public performances because people feel a sense of solidarity with the people telling their stories on stage and they want to share their own stories and be heard.”

There’s not much time left so the BuSSy team is asking people to support their crowdfunding campaign in order to have more young women and men taking the stage to tell their untold stories of sexual harassment, female genital mutilation, rape, gender identity and many other issues.

To contribute, go to:  http://igg.me/at/bussy
More information about BuSSy project: www.bussy.co

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