Dignity without Borders is a group comprised of men and women who work towards a world free from sexual violence and assault. Founded in 2013, the group focused on tackling the broader issue of women’s rights through empowerment, education and raising awareness.
Last Year, Maria Munoz co-founded Dignity without Borders to tackle the problem of violence against women from the core. They focus on women empowerment and raising awareness towards the issue through viral videos and online content like photography and video campaigns. “Considering that most Egyptian women have been harassed at a certain point and time, we had to make sure that everyone knew about it. There are many men in Egypt who don’t know and are not aware of what is going on. Even educated men! They wonder how 99% of the women are harassed in the streets” Maria says.
Most of Egyptian women are silent when it comes to daily harassment. They rarely share such incidents with family or society. Men need to know that their wives, mothers and daughters and getting harassed in a way or another. They need to believe and accept that as a fact. “Through these visual campaigns, we try to communicate this message and tell people wake up this is going on. We did this video with kids, which was very telling. We went to boys’ school and then to girls’ school. We asked them if there is sexual harassment in Egypt and why they think this situation is happening. It was very shocking yet expected.When we first met the boys,all of them were blaming girls for wearing tight clothes or walking inappropriately. These were kids between 8 and 15 which mean that they don’t have a conscious to express this kind of opinion. There is someone who has told them that, obviously” Maria tells. “When we went to the girls’ school, it was even more shocking. We asked them the same questions, what do you think is going on here and why do you think its happening? Their response was because girls wear tight clothes and we walk inappropriately. The same response! We asked so you don’t get harassed because you are veiled and you aren’t wearing tight clothes? They said that they are getting harassed as well.I think it was the first time in their lives to stop and think yes, someone else is right. But they soon get back to their previous opinion that they grew up to. It’s heartbreaking how they blame themselves and other women.” Maria adds.
DWB started doing great on-ground activities. They’ve been doing free self-defense classes for women to protect themselves against harassment and violence. They worked with a very good instructor, Hesham Zaky. He basically has been doing one kind of a martial art called Wing Chun for 15 years. This martial art was founded by a woman and it’s very useful for women to learn how to defend themselves. First he starts with theory, he talk about what’s going on and what you shouldn’t do in the streets. The second part of the class is practical, you learn physically how to defend yourself with basic tricks. With repetition these tricks can get you out of a bad situation. “Samia Allouba is actually giving us this space for free and they are going to give us a huge class in Maadi to do the next session. Also there was another one Downtown in Ghamra for another kind of audience because even if the classes are different they are open for everyone.” Maria says.
DWB hasn’t been licensed as an NGO yet which sometimes make the founders face obstacles like going to schools and give lectures. “Some schools will accept you and private schools will say ok,but public schools won’t accept without a license.We are trying to work hard towards that. We are also trying to work hard to have a full time team working on DWB” Maria comments.