CELEBRATING THE RESILIENCE OF WOMEN AND GIRLS
As Increasing numbers of people across the region face hunger and invisible, marginalised groups are living under harsher conditions due to the pandemic, this week’s four important United Nations Days offer the opportunity to highlight vital issues across the MENA, celebrate and pray for the invisible heroines of the region and witness how God is already working in their lives.
“On this year’s World Food Day, in a year like no other in our lifetime, I would ask that we remember all those who have not been safe in their homes and who instead are driven – by hunger – to continue striving to put food on the table for their families,” says SAT-7 CEO Rita El-Mounayer. In a heartfelt video message, which highlights how conflict, political instability, and economic problems are being compounded by the pandemic, she continues, “This ongoing situation threatens to boost the number of hungry people in the region by an additional 6.7 million, to more than 47 million.”
Among those bearing the heaviest burden of these issues in the Middle East and North Africa are women, particularly those in remote areas. In a blog post this week, Samia Kessai, SAT-7 Producer in Algeria, shares the stories of rural women, who are living incredibly limited lives due to poverty, and how SAT-7 programming supports them. “This life of isolation is the situation of many, many women in small villages,” she says. “They often cannot read or write, having never attended school and worked in the fields from a young age.”
A platform to speak
Women like these are the majority of the Middle East and North Africa’s agricultural workers. Across the region, they are sustaining families, communities, and whole societies with their courage and resilience – and yet their voices are rarely heard. Kessai’s programs on SAT-7 ARABIC give women space to share their stories. Recently, an episode of the Algerian-dialect testimony program Free Souls featured Jajika, an Amazigh (Berber) woman.
“Growing up in a rural area, I had no idea how to use home appliances such as a radio or electricity. We didn’t have the basic things in life,” she says. Jajika shares how she was married off at 16, and how when this marriage ended, she was married again to a man from another remote village. “I was a stranger there,” she explains. “I didn’t like living there; I lived through very difficult circumstances.” Jajika was eventually rejected by her husband’s family and her own.
But, Jajika shares, God began to speak to her, both through a young girl she met and through a dream of the cross. When she became a Christian and began attending church, her life changed dramatically. Now, Jajika prays for her family members and for the problems other women face.
Change for the next generation
SAT-7 is also giving rural Egyptian women a platform to share their experiences and opinions. Maggie Morgan, who produces SAT-7 women’s programs in Egypt, explains:
“We have a relationship with a group of women in Upper Egypt who are dedicated viewers of our program Needle and New Thread. We asked them to make videos about their own lives, about the women around them, their communities. These videos come from an authentic place, one of real self-expression.”
One woman in the video says, “By the time I was an adult, I had seven kids and I was a widow. What were my options? I bought this sewing machine. And I started to work.”
While the struggles of these women are evident, what is also clear is their amazing resilience and their commitment to change for the next generation of rural girls. “When I was a kid, I had kids,” another says. “That’s a heavy responsibility. I would never do that to my daughter.”
As we mark the International Day of Rural Women (15 Oct), World Food Day (16 Oct), and the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (18 Oct), please pray for women and girls in the Middle East and North Africa. Pray for those struggling to feed their families; for those trapped by poverty and social restrictions. Ask God to provide for and protect girls and women, and that each one will know how beloved they are to Him.