While some news headlines show hope and progress, others reveal there is still a long road ahead in the fight for gender equality and opportunities for women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). As part of the efforts towards change, SAT-7 continues to beam messages for educating viewers, advocating for the marginalised, and encouraging new perspectives.

“Little by little we will see a change in the Middle East, through raising awareness of relevant issues and events, and supporting women across the region to see themselves through God’s eyes, reminding them of their value, and encouraging them to speak up for change.” Words of encouragement for perseverance shared often by SAT-7 CEO Rita El-Mounayer who, as a Middle Eastern woman leading an organisation based in the MENA, knows first-hand the challenges women of the region face.

Despite horrific current circumstances and setbacks due to the global lockdown and pandemic, a spark of hope through recent news headlines reveals gradual progress being made in the region for women’s opportunities and rights.

“Woman leads UAE’s mission to Mars”, “Female genital mutilation outlawed in Sudan”, “Sexual attacks in Egypt prompt law change”. Such headlines seemed a distant dream but a few years ago, and yet efforts towards social change and development in the MENA for women’s rights, are beginning to bear fruit.

Realising freedoms and rights

SAT-7’s role in the progress for realising women’s rights in the region is vital as part of its mission to “make God’s love visible”. This includes providing a platform for the marginalised voices of women – offering a safe place to voice their struggles as well as their victories.

Planting healthy seeds early on, SAT-7 ACADEMY’s gameshow Puzzle teaches young girls that they have rights – rights for an education, rights to choose when to marry at an appropriate age, rights to a childhood.

Presenters on the last season of Needle and New Thread discuss women’s rights in regards to freedom of religion and belief (FORB).

Several talk shows, such as SAT-7 TÜRK’s Turning Point and SAT-7 ARABIC’s Needle and New Thread shine a light on the issues facing women in the region, what it means to be a woman in a male-dominated society, and the prejudices women face, as well as lack of opportunities in education and choices in employment.

Other programs such as She’s the Story showcase success stories of women who have broken through the glass ceiling in their careers, providing healthy role models for other women to aspire to. Youth programs such as You Enlighten Us, offer young women a platform to voice their fears and struggles, as well as receive support and encouragement.

The fight is not over

“Although encouraging to see progress in the news, there is much more work to be done,” says Nicoletta Michael SAT-7 Development Manager. A recent episode of SAT-7 ARABIC’s program You Are Not Alone covered the topic of sexual harassment and shared women’s stories. Ola* shared her experience on air about having to tolerate harassment from her employer since she is the main breadwinner of her family and cannot report him to anyone. The program also shared shocking news stories such as the eight Lebanese men who raped a 14-year-old Syrian girl for two years, and the story of Egyptian Ahmad Zaki who harassed and raped more than 100 girls, most of them the age of 14.

“It is imperative for organisations like SAT-7 to continue to educate, create awareness, and plant seeds of healthy values,” shares Nicoletta. “We are still hearing about millions of women in the region having their rights violated, families continuing to force FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) on their young daughters, and perpetrators still getting away with sexually abusing women in Egypt, while their victims are shamed for coming forward with comments like ‘she was asking for it’. A few victories do not mean the fight is over.”

Women of the MENA play a pivotal role in influencing the next generation of young leaders. Investing in empowering and encouraging women and young girls continually through informative, and impactful programming is essential for the future of the region. Will you partner with SAT-7 and help make an impact in the lives of women in the Middle East and North Africa?

*names have been changed for security purposes.

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