Two special episodes of Needle and New Thread are breaking ground on the topic of gender equality in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), with on the ground reports, comments from viewers and special guests shining a light on the subject with a Christian perspective.

The Middle East and North Africa are rich in history, culture and tradition. However, a region with history that goes back thousands of years is also subject to certain outdated societal ideals, stereotypes, discrimination and set gender roles.

Two new special episodes promoting discussions about gender equality have been produced by Needle and New Thread, SAT-7 ARABIC’s flag ship women’s program to help make progress on educating women on their rights.

The right to inherit

One of the episodes discussed the topic of equality and the rights of women for inheritance. In the Middle East many families discriminate between men and women in inheritance in favour of men. Additionally, the episode brought to light the fact that families who do decide to treat their children equally and divide the inheritance equally between their sons and daughters, often face social pressure.

The program showed video reports from Minya Egypt, where people discussed the topic of injustice regarding inheritance, and other types of discrimination that still take place between men and women.

Values above money

guest speaker Pastor Marco Shokry of the Evangelical Church in Fayyoum, Egypt, shares his insights on the topic:

“The values that I teach my children are more important than the money they will inherit from me. Children inherit many things from their fathers and mothers that are more important than money…Values must be revisited and we must reintroduce them to the people and apply them to our children above all,” Shokry says.

A pre-recorded interview with Samir Youssef Yanni, elder at the Evangelical Church in Malawi discussed the topic from a Christian perspective.

“Discrimination is against God’s will. Can you imagine God judging us at the end of days based on our gender? I have seen some cases where a person almost hired a hitman to get rid of another to get their inheritance. Greed makes a person blind, forgetting what’s right and wrong.”

Comments from viewers reveal there is work still to be done

Several viewers, both men and women, called in or sent messages to the program sharing their views. Some viewers’ comments showed clearly that there is work still to be done to break these old stereotypes and how society views women’s roles.

“Yes, unfortunately these are wrong social traditions,” shared a male viewer from Egypt, “but they will change only when the wife is able to earn the love and trust of her in-laws.”

Such comments show that on the one hand people agree that these are outdated social traditions, but on the other this viewer lays the responsibility on the woman to earn the love and trust of her in-laws, as though that shouldn’t be freely given.

Another male viewer expressed a more updated perspective:

“Discrimination is against nature but unfortunately is inherent in our society. To change society, there must be a major breakdown on these inherent values. So, we must start with soft changes because if a woman gets her rights by force, there will be fights. Only with wisdom and calm can she get her rights instead of conflicts and confrontation.”

Guiding women to protect their rights

On another episode guest speaker and gender specialist Ghada Mostafa explained that education and raising awareness on gender equality needs to start from home, schools and through media. “We need generations who understand the value of equality.”

She further shared that there are many organisations that are now guiding women to protect their rights. “These organisations can help them protect their right in the workplace and when they face discrimination at home, but women need to learn to speak up first so they can be helped.”

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