Marriage with the mind, not the body

From September 2022 until the end of the 16 Days of Activism to Combat Violence Against Women activities in December 2022, Edraak Foundation for Development and Equality (EFDE) launched a campaign entitled #MarriageWithTheMindNotTheBody, to open a societal discussion about the widespread crime of “child marriage” which is widely supported in the Egyptian society, that consequently led to the delay of issuing a law that explicitly criminalizes the phenomenon and condemns those involved. The campaign’s primary aim is to mobilize for the issuance of legislation criminalizing child marriage in Egypt while shedding light on the efforts of civil society institutions and national councils that have been made over the years to combat the phenomenon of child marriage.


As part of its social responsibility to combat the crime of “child marriage” in Egypt, EFDE launched the “#MarriageWithTheMindNotTheBody” campaign intending to shape public opinion in favor of legislation criminalizing such crime and establishing effective executive mechanisms to protect girls and their rights.

The end of 2021 witnessed the first legislative action when MP ‘Enas Abdel Halim’ introduced the first clear and explicit legislation criminalizing child marriage. Despite the importance of this legislation in contributing to combatting such crime, it only gained attention in April 2022 after the government approved a draft law submitted to the Egyptian parliament on the criminalization of child marriage.

The first half of the following year (2022) saw a widespread movement, with positive steps taken by the Parliament in referring several draft laws submitted by MPs for discussion, aimed at criminalizing child marriage. These included the draft law submitted by MP ‘Amira Al-Adly’, which criminalizes the forcing of children into marriage with penalties for those involved. Additionally, there was the draft law by MP ‘Bilal Al-Baroulsi’, which sought to increase and aggravate the penalties for anyone inciting the commission of the crime of child marriage, as well as the one submitted by MP ‘Suhair Abdel Hamid’ regarding the legal capacity to marry.

The parliamentary movements coincided with the foundation’s efforts towards criminalizing child marriage. Through its campaign, the foundation sought to unify societal efforts in issuing legislation criminalizing child marriage in Egypt, which is one of the most important decisive factors in confronting this crime. Additionally, the campaign aims to shed light on the social and religious justifications that contribute to the prevalence of child marriage in society, as well as highlighting the efforts of civil society and governmental councils made over the years to combat this crime.

Campaign activities:

  • We produced a number of infographics and comics on the cultural legacies and sayings that are told and taught to girls from a young age to persuade them to marry early.
  • The campaign included a round table titled “Joint action and strengthening the efforts for criminalizing child marriage through legislation” which was attended by a number of parliament members who submitted draft laws to criminalize child marriage, representatives of development agencies in Egypt and a number of civil society practitioners who are interested in women’s and children’s issues, as well as representatives of a number of judicial and medical governmental bodies.
  • One of the campaign’s outcomes was the publication of a legal paper by Counselor Moataz Abu Zeid – Vice President of the Egyptian State Council and Public Law Lecturer- entitled “Towards an effective movement to issue a law to criminalize child marriage.”
  • Additionally, we were keen on engaging other initiatives and organizations to work on the campaign such as “Love Matters” and “Your Voice”. We held a number of discussion sessions via Zoom with a number of decision-makers, parliamentarians and Senate members, social media influencers, and activists working in civil society organizations, government research centers, and psychiatrists.
  • Believing in the importance of unifying efforts to work on such issues, we highlighted the influential campaigns recently carried out by other organizations, such as the #Not_Before_18 campaign, the Egyptian Women Lawyers Initiative’s Campaign and New Woman Foundation’s Campaign.
  • Furthermore, we produced a series of graphic stories depicting documented cases of child marriage from the “Violence Against Women Crimes Observatory” in 2021, which tragically ended with the victim’s murder or marriage disownment. These stories portray real-life accounts of girls and women who were either killed or committed suicide due to being married off or forced into early marriages, sourced from the observatory’s report.
  • The campaign also included a number of written articles on the legal, social and economic implications of child marriage, and was concluded with an article by journalist “Esra Saleh”, titled “How do minor girls learn about marital sexual relations?” that was published on “Al Manassa” platform where it received great interaction and various feedbacks.

To view the full campaign flyer: child marriage campaign – Newsletter Ar october 2022 (1)

For more information on the campaign: newsletter_Marriage with the mind, not the body advocacy campaign En (1)


In celebration of International Women’s Day on 8 March 2023, Edraak Foundation for Development and Equality (EFDE) launched the “#SafeComm4women” campaign, which extended until the 20th of March and engaged with the CSW67 theme “Innovation and Technological Change and Education in the Digital Age for Achieving Gender Equality and the Empowerment of All Women and Girls.”

Technology and digital spaces have empowered women in Egypt and the MENA region at several levels. In many societies where women and girls experience restrictions on their fundamental rights, internet access and opportunities brought by digital spaces have supported them in overcoming these restrictions and challenges. Many women in our communities still struggle to travel, go out to work, access educational opportunities, or participate actively in the public sphere. Internet access has enabled them to communicate, learn, work, build networks, and create “safe” spaces to discuss their issues and tell their stories. Feminist movements have also benefited from digital tools and spaces in reaching women everywhere and overcoming many challenges related to resources and organization.

Despite all the gains and since digital spaces are an extension of people’s behavior and culture in the actual sphere, digital spaces have also been a room for exposure to GBV, discrimination, and imbalance in power relations. Accordingly, women are exposed to violence and discrimination regarding equal and safe access to the digital sphere. Therefore, women’s rights defenders in the MENA region are working extensively to raise awareness, advocate for women’s rights on safety and security in digital spaces, and push for more responsive policies and services that support women against GBV in the digital sphere.

Consequently, EFDE has launched this campaign to shed light on violence against women in the digital sphere and to highlight the significant role of digital feminist groups and women’s rights defenders (WHRDs) who mainly rely on digital tools and spaces in their work and the challenges they face to sustain their activities. The campaign also aims to reflect the reality of their efforts and the digital feminist initiatives and groups in Egypt. This included posting of real cases of violence against women related to the digital sphere (cyber violence against women), visual materials, and infographics on the context-related statistics and percentages from our VAW Crimes Observatory, a webinar on the reality and future of digital feminist groups in Egypt and tweeting about the achievements and challenges of advocating women’s rights in the digital sphere as well as presenting the different definitions of digital violence and the methods of assistance that women can resort to.

For more information, please visit:


newsletter- SafeComm4women webinar, activites & recommendations -March 2023 En



“Emergency Case G”

Halet Tawareek Geem is the name of the campaign in Arabic. This campaign was launched in conjunction with World Menstrual Hygiene Awareness Day on 28 May 2023. The campaign’s name, ‘Emergency Case G’, was chosen based on its recent popularity among girls and women as a reference to menstruation, highlighting its significance in their lives.

Due to the economic crisis, menstrual pads were considered a recreational commodity, resulting in a significant increase in their cost. In light of this, the campaign aimed to address the question: How can women access safe and healthy alternatives to sanitary pads amidst soaring prices? We sought to highlight low-cost alternatives and available tools, emphasizing their safe and easy usage to maintain health and personal hygiene. Thus, we launched a social media campaign to spotlight these alternatives and provide guidance on their healthy and safe use.

The campaign provided a comprehensive review of the most prominent alternative products available on the Egyptian market, including their prices, availability, and proper usage for maintaining hygiene. Additionally, it addressed common myths surrounding menstruation and the use of sanitary pad alternatives, aiming to dispel the culture of shame prevalent in our society, where girls often hide such products in ‘brown bags’.

In addition to our online efforts, we organized a series of offline training sessions to complement our activities and programs, ensuring a hybrid approach to reach a broader audience.

To view the full campaign leaflet, please visit: Emergency case G

Capacity Building for Women Leaders

Edraak Foundation for Development and Equality organised a four-day training entitled “Strengthening the Capacities of Women Leaders in the Community” for 18 girls and women from several governorates (Cairo, Giza, Aswan, Luxor, Alexandria, Gharbia, Qalyubia, Port Said, Assiut).

The first day of the training covered a number of topics, including the state’s strategy for population issues, the effects of gender-based violence, population and development, and reproductive health science.

The second day, entitled “Developing Gender-Sensitive Legislation”, discussed some topics, including analyzing legislation from a gender perspective and discrimination against women within Egyptian law (the Penal Code as a model).

The third day of the training was entitled “Designing Effective Campaigns to Advocate for Women’s Rights” and discussed many topics, including the concept of advocacy, its criteria and levels, and the formulation of advocacy campaigns’ objectives, analyzing them and selecting activities.

The fourth day, and last day, discussed a number of topics, including the political organization of public authorities, the role of parliament, parliamentary tools, and the gender dimension in drafting parliamentary tools.

Integrating Gender into Parliamentary Work

As part of the Foundation’s commitment to promoting gender equality and combating gender-based violence through collaboration with various stakeholders, including policymakers and the legislative authority in Egypt, we organized a training program specifically for the assistants and aides of deputies in the Egyptian Parliament.

The primary objective of this training was to equip them with knowledge on topics aimed at alleviating the suffering of women in Egyptian society. This began with an introduction to the concept of gender-based violence and related terms, emphasizing the importance of understanding these issues from both legal and human rights perspectives. We also focused on familiarizing them with discriminatory laws and stressed the significance of approaching legislation from a gender-sensitive perspective.

Furthermore, we were keen to enrich their understanding of the roles and specializations within national legislative councils, emphasizing the crucial relationship between legislation and women’s issues. Additionally, we provided guidance on crafting gender-sensitive policy papers.

Finally, it was necessary to include in the training a comprehensive discussion on women’s health rights, covering sexual and reproductive health rights and other pertinent issues that require attention and action.


How Do Underage Girls Learn About Marital Relationships?

Written by Isra Saleh
Source: Al-Manssa website

”They dressed me up and took me to the room”… How Do Underage Girls Learn About Marital Relationships?

Twenty-year-old Olfat Al-Husseini* recalls the first time she was forced to have sex after being married off before she was 15 years old: “They dressed me up and took me to a room and told me, ‘Don’t do anything and let him do whatever he wants,'” she said.

Even after her divorce four years ago, Olfat is still suffering from the negative effects of being married off as a child. She is trying to focus on completing her studies and is considering undergoing psychological therapy. She says, “I can’t imagine going through that experience (marriage) again, neither by my own choice nor against my will.”

Although she still lives with her family, she plans to become independent and leave the environment where she was abused, the abuse which led her mother to separate from her father, because he forced their daughter into this marriage.

She tells Al-Manssa, “I can coexist with my mom and siblings, but not in a normal way. Many times, I feel like I can’t adapt, even though they weren’t really involved in the matter.” She also feels sorry for girls facing a similar experience, saying, “I wanted to decide how my life would go. I didn’t want to be forced into anything.”

Article 31 bis of the Civil Status Law criminalises marriage of girls under the age of 18, but “legal loopholes have left room for circumventing the law by marrying early with an undocumented contract, in addition to the lack of mechanisms to deal with the issue of forcing young girls into marriage,” according to the National Strategy to Reduce Early Marriage 2015-2020, issued by the National Population Council. The strategy also noted that provisions to “criminalise and fine those responsible for depriving a child of education are not enforced.”

A Relationship by Coercion

Olfat recalls how she only wanted the life of an ordinary student like those her age, but her father forced her, saying, “We don’t ask girls for their opinion on marriage.” When a suitor came forward who hadn’t completed his middle school education, worked as a barber, and used drugs, her father agreed without asking her.

Before the wedding, Olfat, who had received an Azhari education, knew only the rules of marriage, such as the engagement and public declaration of the marriage. “For the first two days, I didn’t understand what was going on, and when he tried, I refused, until he told my parents and they intervened,” she recalls.

She adds, “It was really difficult… I didn’t understand what was happening to the extent that even when he was reaching sexual climax, I didn’t understand what it was. I thought he was urinating on me. I didn’t know those were sperm.”

Olfat emphasises that she never consented to any sexual relationship with her ex-husband: “For me, the whole thing was coercion and I was forced and I had no right to say yes or no.” But every time she expressed her refusal of the relationship, her family’s response was, “Let him do what he wants so that God doesn’t hold you accountable and the angels don’t curse you.”

No Punishment.. No Prevention

Olfat remained trapped in that marriage, waiting for her 18th birthday to be able to prove her marriage first in order to then be able to get a divorce. In the meantime, she was under constant pressure from her family, arguing that “the one who you are exposed to is better than others, and you don’t know who will accept you after this when you’re divorced.”

Olfat is not the only one. Besides her confirmation that many girls in her village in Dakahlia Governorate were married in the same way, a policy paper on eliminating early marriage, issued by the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, indicates that “according to 2017 data from Egypt’s census, child marriage remains a persistent issue in Egypt. Nearly one in 20 girls (4%) in the age group 15-17 years and one in 10 (11%) adolescent girls aged 15-19 years are currently married or have been married before, with significant disparities between rural and urban areas.”

Marital rape

Olfat’s story is similar to that of Zeinab*, who recalls, during her conversation with Al-Manssa, being married off to her cousin, “the successful one who earns a lot of money “, when she was in the third grade of middle school.

Zeinab also knew nothing about sexual relations, and her ideas about marriage were limited to “the white dress, the house, the new clothes, and putting on makeup, which was the peak of the dreams at her age.” She comments, “I used to see them on TV kissing and having children, so I thought it was that easy.” But the wedding night did not go as easily as she imagined.

She says, “After the wedding, I walked in and I couldn’t understand why they started arguing because he wanted to consummate the marriage in a certain way. My mother was yelling, asking why and where she had gone.” She continues, “After they left, he was like a bull—really, like a bull who has finally found a prey.” She describes the scene, which involved not only beating and humiliation but also rape.

Zeinab was shocked to see a naked man for the first time, “It was a horrible sight for me, I kept closing my eyes and hiding.” But the hunter did not leave his prey until he completed his mission in a moment she compared to death, “I felt like I was dying like they were taking my soul.” She adds that four days later, she developed vaginismus, a vaginal cramp.

The child went to the doctor, who advised her not to be afraid, and prescribed her nerve-calming sedatives to allow her husband to continue his violent practices, “What could the doctor say when even my family didn’t care?”

The husband used to beat Zeinab for sex, calling her cold until she developed her refusal skills by dyeing sanitary pads with Betadine to prove to her husband that her menstrual cycle was preventing her from having sex with him. But when it was repeated, he asked her to visit the doctor to stop it.

Zeinab’s luck was worse than Olfat’s due to the length of her experience. “I stayed married for 10 years and saw hell,” Zeinab recalls. She remembers that she didn’t find anyone to support her in her continuous attempts to divorce. Her father pressured her to return to her husband, who exploited the fact that their marriage was undocumented to humiliate her.

During that time, Zeinab tried to commit suicide because she felt so oppressed in the marriage, in which she had two children, one of whom is autistic. She eventually got a divorce four years ago, and until now she does not know how her marriage and divorce were officially documented.

Nagwa Ibrahim, the Executive Director of the Edraak Foundation for Development and Equality, believes that child marriage is a form of sexual violence that should be punished by the law as a rape crime, in addition to being “a form of human trafficking.”

Despite the fact that the percentage of women who have experienced any form of sexual violence from their current or former husbands reached 5.6% in 2021, according to the latest health survey by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics, Egyptian law does not criminalise marital rape, regardless of the legality of the marriage.

For now, Zeinab is content with raising and caring for her two children and does not wish to remarry. “I’m sick of them all; they’re all disgusting. How will the next one be any better? They’re all the same.” Therefore, she wears a “fake” wedding ring so that no one would know that she is divorced, “so that no one will covet me and say that I am lonely.”

Love Is Not Enough

Unlike Olfat and Zeinab, Somaya* got married “for love” when she was fifteen, but that didn’t prevent her from suffering. Now 24 years old, she confirms that her early marriage was a mistake, she hopes others won’t make.

She says, “I wanted to continue my education, but he refused, and because I loved him, I listened to him.” At the beginning of her story, Somaya mentioned that her husband did not force sex on her, but “he took her with reason and persuasion” at the start of the marriage, so she says that she did not refuse a sexual relationship with him.

However, as the conversation continued, she began to open up more and more, admitting that he sometimes hits and abuses her during sex, especially when he is “upset or angry.” But he calms down and comes back to her with sweet words, so she remains silent and overlooks the violence she is subjected to. “Otherwise, I would have to divorce him and go back to my father’s house and be upset?”

In an authentic Upper Egyptian dialect, she says, “I stay with him; when he says a sweet word, I am content. Sometimes he hits me and shoves me, and then after a while, he says a sweet word to appease me.”

Nagwa Ibrahim comments that a girl’s consent may come after the idea of marriage has been embellished for her by her family and solidified in her mind, just like the rest of the girls in the village or family. Therefore, the fact that girls do not reach the age when they are fully and freely capable of making their own decisions without coercion violates the conditions for full and informed consent.

Lawyer Heba Adel agrees, stressing that the law does not allow the marriage of a girl under the age of 18 to be documented. Therefore, her consent to the marriage is not considered valid, as she is still a child in the eyes of the law and does not have full capacity.

 With the mind

Recently, Edraak Foundation for Development and Equality launched the “Marriage with the Mind, not the Body” campaign, coinciding with the proposal of a law to criminalise child marriage in the House of Representatives. According to the foundation’s director, there are three draft laws submitted in addition to the one submitted by the government to criminalise child marriage.

During the discussion of the law in parliament, it was stopped by the legislative committee, which sent it to Al-Azhar for its opinion, but no response has been received so far.

If Alfet’s experience ended with her gaining her freedom and addressing the effects of that marriage, Samia, who moved with her husband from Minya to Cairo, is forbidden from leaving the house except at specific times and for reasons her husband deems legitimate.

“Until now, I still regret that I left my education,” she comments. Based on her experience, she emphasises that girls should complete their education, saying “There is nothing better than education.” She adds that marriage is “a very big responsibility” that a young girl cannot bear, even if she wants it, “they don’t know what will happen afterwards.”


(*) Pseudonyms are used to protect the privacy of the sources.


Edraak’s Activity Summary for 2023

Edraak Foundation for Development and Equality provides a summary of its activities during 2023. The Foundation issued the annual report of the Gender-Based Violence Crimes Observatory, which is one of the mechanisms by which the Foundation monitors the rates, frequency and forms of violent crimes directed against women and girls, in the first half of the year.
The Foundation also launched several campaigns, including the “SafeCommunication4women Campaign” concerning feminist initiatives and groups in Egypt which operate online. It focused on the role of women’s rights defenders who rely mainly on digital spaces and tools to advocate for their causes.
“Enough Clichés” is a campaign about the most frequent scenes of violence in drama series, and this campaign coincided with the month of Ramadan, which often witnesses the highest rate of drama production in Egypt. The “Emergency C” campaign on menstruation was launched by the Foundation to shed light on alternatives to sanitary pads, and how to use these alternatives hygienically and safely.
In light of the Foundation’s plan to enhance the capacities of women leaders in the public sphere, the Foundation organized a number of training programs, including “training to enhance the capacities of women leaders in society.” This training came within an ongoing series, which was started two years ago to raise the capacities of women leaders in the public sphere. During the training, the Foundation targeted 120 women and girls from 18 governorates on the republic level.
The Foundation also organized the “Gender Sensitive Reporting Training”, which included strengthening the capacities of 21 journalists from different newspapers towards gender-sensitive reporting.
You can view the full activity summary bulletin through the following link:

The Psychological Impact on Women During Times of War

Written by: Mirna Mohammad Matar

Researcher in Political Science

In the darkness that covers the land of Gaza, femininity is lost among the ruins of wars, as war is an act of violence. Women, who are considered the pillars of society, are subjected to various forms of violations. Women are one of the most vulnerable groups in times of armed conflicts and wars. This prompted the General Assembly to adopt Resolution No. 3318 (4) in May 1974, on the protection of women and children in emergency situations and armed conflicts.

Before displacement, Palestinian women were subjected to the most heinous crimes that disregarded women’s rights as enshrined in international law. Barbaric bombings, forced labor, and harassment such as being forced to remove their hijabs, all paint a horrifying picture of life before displacement. During the displacement process, Palestinian women faced additional violations, including bombardment, arbitrary detention, and inhumane treatment, all forming a part of the harsh reality that they face during displacement.

The long-term impact of these violations on the lives of Palestinian women cannot be ignored. The international community’s role in protecting women’s rights during armed conflict must be more effective. Women in Gaza, like women all over the world, deserve to live with dignity and freedom. They deserve the right to life, safety, and justice. The world must hear their cries.

The psychological impact of wars and conflicts on women can be immense and even devastating. Women who have faced violence and violations generally suffer from various psychological symptoms, including trauma, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

  • Trauma: Trauma is a natural reaction to horrific and traumatic events. Women who have experienced violence and abuse can feel traumatized, distraught and scared.
  • Anxiety: Anxiety is a feeling of worry or fear that can be severe enough to interfere with daily life. Women who have experienced violence can feel anxious about personal safety and the future.
  • Depression: Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Women who have experienced violence can suffer from depression due to the traumatic events they have witnessed or endured.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): PTSD is a psychological disorder that can occur after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Women who have faced violence and abuse can suffer from PTSD, which can cause nightmares, flashbacks and physical symptoms such as headaches and insomnia.

Psychological support and psychotherapy can be powerful tools, and even necessary alongside primary aid, to help women who have experienced violence and abuse during wars and conflicts recover and rebuild their lives. Recognizing the psychological impact of war on women and providing the necessary support is an essential step towards justice and healing.

Additionally, Palestinian women suffer from inhumane treatment during displacement, according to Ms Rana Jaber, “We had to relieve ourselves in the street or wait for a very long time.” This causes health problems for women due to the prolonged displacement and lack of transportation, with displacement journeys taking hours. Displaced women during their menstrual periods suffer significantly as they cannot stop or rest due to the occupation’s instructions to keep moving.

Palestinian women have also suffered from arbitrary arrests and stoppages during displacement, with more than fifty women from the Gaza Strip, including elderly women and infants, have been documented to have been arrested. According to testimonies, they have been subjected to abuse and ill-treatment, with their fate shrouded in complete secrecy by the occupation. For instance, Khawla Abu Zaida, a 40-year-old resident of northern Gaza, reported that her 19-year-old daughter, Aseel Abu Zaida, who was arrested during displacement, had her gold, valued at forty thousand US dollars, stolen and has not been retrieved as she remains detained by the Israeli occupation.

As a result of the war, Palestinian women are currently facing the absence of the basic necessities for a dignified life. Bathrooms, if available, are few and for general use, clean water is scarce, there is no proper sewage system or sanitation, and electricity is unavailable. The situation worsens in winter as rain pours into the tents, which lack effective means of heating. These conditions lead to disease outbreaks, especially among women, who need to maintain their health with care and attention. Nourhan Abu Nahl, who is seven months pregnant, reported that she suffered from dehydration and intestinal infections and almost lost her baby had it not been for the intervention of doctors. The dire humanitarian situation and the lack of fuel and petrol also led to the transport of Lina Abu Odeh during her labor by animal cart to the hospital, where she told us: “I lost my privacy in the weakest moment that a woman may be in and I was screaming in the street from pain and everyone saw me because I could not bear the pain, especially since the movement of the cart was increasing the pain of labor due to the broken streets as well.”

In parallel, the civil war in Sudan has had a devastating impact on women, with millions affected by gender-based violence, displacement, and loss of livelihoods. Women face various challenges, including lack of privacy, safety concerns, and limited access to education and employment opportunities. The conflict has resulted in immense suffering for women, with reports of sexual violence, rape, and other atrocities. Women-led initiatives and coalitions have emerged to address these issues and advocate for peace and women’s rights

The war has led to millions of women losing their livelihoods, savings, and access to basic services like healthcare and food. Gender-based violence, including sexual violence, has been a prevalent issue during the conflict, with reports of numerous incidents affecting women and girls. The lack of funding, humanitarian aid access, and security challenges have hindered efforts to support women in need.

Gender-Sensitive Reporting

Journalism is often referred to as the fourth estate that controls and shapes public opinion. Therefore, the Foundation prioritized including professionals in journalism and content creation among its target groups for the training program. We aimed, through the training, to enhance their understanding of gender concepts and their application in press coverage, as well as to familiarize them with legal frameworks concerning women’s rights.

Furthermore, we aimed to bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application by hosting the founder of the platform “W Laha Wogoh Okhra,” a prominent example of feminist journalism. This provided an opportunity for the trainees to gain insights into the challenges faced by feminist journalism within the Egyptian context.

Lastly, the training addressed the ethics of documenting stories involving survivors of gender-based violence.