CAIRO: In an effort to raise awareness about the daily struggles and issues of women in Egyptian society, the European Commission in Egypt in cooperation with NGO Media Arts for Development (MADEV), is launching a sitcom under the name “Coiffeur Ashwaq.
“This project is proof of the commitment and professionalism of NGOs in Egypt who want to build something that will initiate a change, said Ambassador Klaus Eberman from the Delegation of the European Commission in Egypt.
He explained that the relationship between the EU and Egypt is not only limited to economy and politics, and this project is a case in point.
“Coiffeur Ashwaq is part of the Capture Life advertisement campaign launched by MADEV and co-funded by the European Commission in Egypt. The campaign aims at addressing social issues through media and art.
“We believe that this series will play a major role in drawing attention and raising awareness to these issues as the media is an extremely effective tool, said Loula Zaklama, founding member of MADEV.
The sitcom’s main plot revolves around a hair salon owned by Ashwaq, played by veteran actress Mimi Gamal, and her comedic encounters with the salon’s customers who belong to different social classes.
“The idea was not to launch a campaign with commercials and banners everywhere raising awareness about women’s issues. We wanted to do this in a different way that is entertaining so that every member of the family would get the message, no matter what their age or gender is, said Marline Labib, chair of MADEV’s board of directors.
The series consists of 15 episodes, each addressing a specific social issue related to women, such as equal opportunities, sexism, young marriages, domestic violence, sexual harassment and divorce. It was particularly challenging to the writers of the sitcom as they had to present serious social problems and concerns in comedic situations.
In addition, five of the seven writers are men, which raised skepticism about whether they would be able to present subjects from a female viewpoint.
“We had two women from MADEV working with us to keep us on track, but above everything else even though we are men, we are living in Egypt and we can see how women are struggling, said Mohamed Ismail, one of the writers.
The objective behind “Coiffeur Ashwaq is to show audiences that these problems and struggles are part of the Egyptian lifestyle. The sitcom also discusses other public concerns such as water waste and elections from the perspective of women. “We want to tell women that whether it is economic or political reforms in Egypt, this is part of your life and you have to express your opinion regarding these issues, said Labib.
MADEV is currently engaged in negotiations with a number of prominent satellite and local channels to broadcast the series. “We will go for whoever pays the highest price, said Labib. “We hope it would be one of the most watched channels, and of course, we would love for it to air in Ramadan.
Furthermore, MADEV is currently setting up the website www.settatonchat.com, or women on chat, which will constitute a forum for women to communicate with a number of associations specialized in developing and empowering women. The website will be advertised during the sitcom.
“The idea is that when women watch the show and are exposed to these problems, they will go online and discuss them with other women and experts, explained Labib. MADEV is negotiating with 41 NGOs in different fields, such as health and education, who can provide assistance to women through the website. Seven NGOs have already signed agreement protocols.
“This is just the beginning of our [MADEV] cooperation with the European Union; we believe that there are many social issues that need to be tackled in Egypt and through our project, she added.ed.