Sexual harrassment has been one of the signature themes of twenty-first-century Cairo comics:
There is Deena Mohamed’s Qahera, which recently won “Best Digital Comic” at the inagural CairoComix Festival last month. In Qahera, a”visibly Muslim” female superhero beats back the city’s harrassers. There’s also Shakmagia (Jewelry Box) magazine, published by the Nazra Center for Women’s Studies, which focused its launch issue around sexual harrassment and sexual violence.
Egypt’s main comics magazine for adults, TokTok, has also featured commentary on sexual harrassment. Even Cairo’s first full-length graphic novel, Magdy al-Shafee’s Metro, depicted sexual harrassment. This focus on harrassment indicates both the scope of the problem and a shared feeling that something can be done to change attitudes, particularly through a visual storytelling medium like comics.
The latest anti-harrassment comic — now posted up in Cairo metro stations — is part of a “What will you do?” campaign, created by artist Ahmed Nady. It was launched on Saturday by the non-profit group Imprint Movement.
According to organizers, the comics will circulate around the metro system. The work is currently at Al-Shohadaa (formerly Mubarak) Station, after which it will go to Mohamed Naguib, then Al-Sadat, and finally Al-Attaba. In addition, twelve posters will be put up at Helwan University station, Manshyet Al Sadr Station, and Cairo University stations, as these stations “are considered to have the most activity and get a huge amount of people daily.”
The campaign is set to run through mid-February, 2016.
Imprint cofounder and General Director Abdel Fattah al-Sharkawy told Mada Masr that he spent an hour at the Shohadaa station observing the reactions of passersby on the first day the comics were installed. Every two to four minutes, people would stop and read the whole comic “from the first panel to the last.”
“Many people were happy and were discussing the issue with each other,” Sharkway told Mada. “it was amazing.”