There is no limit to what mothers would do for their children. Just look at the example of Sisa Abu Daooh, recipient of “woman breadwinner” award in Egypt. Daooh, who came from a traditional family in Luxor, Egypt, disguised herself as a man and has been wearing men’s clothing for 43 years now, just so she can provide for her daughter and grandchildren.
Daooh was widowed while she was pregnant and was left without a source of income. Her family tried to marry her off again but she refused and chose to support her daughter the only way she knew how–by being a man. She shaved her hair, donned a full-length robe with wide sleeves called “jilbab”, a turban, a pair of black men’s shoes, and took jobs meant for men. At that time, manual labor was closed to women and office work was for the educated.
“It was the only way to make money. What else could I do? I can’t read or write – my family didn’t send me to school – so this was the only way,” she said.
She has done work from harvesting wheat to brick-making and was able to raise her daughter. Now, at the age of 64, she still wears men’s clothes and works by cleaning and shining shoes on the streets of Luxor. Her daughter’s husband fell ill and unable to work, so she remained the breadwinner of the family. Aside from having access to jobs that would otherwise have been off-limits to her, she said she did it to be able to work without fear of sexual harassment.
“So as to protect myself from men and the harshness of their looks and being targeted by them due to traditions, I decided to be a man … and dressed in their clothes and worked alongside them in other villages where no one knows me” Daooh explained.
She said, however, that she did not lie about her gender and admits that she is a woman when asked. As time passed, more and more people found out she was a woman to the point that almost everyone in Luxor knew her gender. Her hard work and renown was officially recognized when the Social Solidarity Directorate of Luxor awarded her the “woman breadwinner” award. As shown in the photo courtesy of the Egyptian President Office, Daooh was still dressed as a man when she met Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi to receive her certificate. She was also given award money and a kiosk to help her with her business.