Female Graffiti Artists Spreading Revolutionary Messages Of Equality In Egypt


When traditional methods and all else fails, get creative. This is the message a group of young artists in Egypt are sending with their peaceful protest in their country.

The group is called Women on Walls, they are a collective graffiti artists movement group who paint the city walls in Cairo to tells women’s stories and give them greater visibility amongst the greater Egyptian consciousness. Instead of beating a lour drum, they use their art to empower women and allow people to think about this issue in a unique way.

When you think of women in Egypt, a largely Muslim country, you certainly don’t think of outspoken artists who are speaking up for equality. Except that these days perhaps you should. One female Egyptian TV journalist schooled an Islamic cleric when he tried to force her to wear a hijab on camera, and the video went viral. Another female rapper is using her growing platform to speak up for abused women in the country, gaining the attention of worldwide media for being such an anomaly. And UN Women made this video PSA denouncing violence against women in Egypt, in an attempt to penetrate the male consciousness.

So it’s no surprise to us, really, that more and more women who live in oppressed states are the ones who are using any and every means to get a message across. So far WOW has 60 members, and was launched in 2012 by Swedish street art documentarian Mia Gröndahl, author of Revolution Graffiti: Street Art of the New Egypt, and local cultural manager Angie Balata.

They want to bring awareness to the daily struggles of Egyptian women, and the group is gaining more attention nationwide.

‘’It’s important to make the public feel it’s natural to have women out there, it’s their space too. Just like men, they have the right to feel OK in the street’’, WOW’s founder pointed out.

‘’I felt there’s was a need to support female artists, and there’s a very strong need to address women’s issues’’, Gröndahl emphasized, ‘’Egypt is one of the worst countries when it comes to women’s rights.’’

Salma El-Gamal,19, began drawing on walls two years ago just to do graffiti. El-Gama joined the project to get her message out. She’s affected by the politics of her country and women’s role in society.

‘’I’d like the final mural to express something radical, that can change things for women in Egypt’’, El-Gamal said.

Enas Awad, 21, has grown up as an independent graffiti artist. She wanted to play a part in the campaign to address sexual harassment, and promote better rights for women in Egypt’s male-dominated society.

‘’Whenever there’s an issue regarding women who have been sexually harassed, it’s always the woman’s fault. We’ve had enough of that,’’ Awad said.


What’s exciting to know is that there are Egyptian men who are on board with this cause and want to aid the cause of equality in Egypt. Two street artists Mamoun Mahmoud and Khadija El Ghawas signed up straight away once they knew it was about empowering women.

‘’Women have their role to play in society just like men. Graffiti is my way to fight back,’’ Mahmoud said.

Each year they plan out their campaigns, their messages and the areas they are going to focus on. This year they are doing a series of graffiti workshops along with brainstorming sessions, with women’s organizations like Nazra for Feminist Studies and HarassMap, to discuss issues concerning women, and how to get the message out on the street.

El-Gamal believes murals can effect a change, no matter how small, they can trigger something among people and invite passersby to stop and ask questions. ‘’The fact that there are emerging female graffiti artists is an improvement in itself. And the fact that we’re now here trying to get a message out is also a step ahead,” she stated.

Artist Faj Solyman highlighted: ‘’In the 2011 revolution, graffiti was a popular tool to talk about youth and politics. Now, the time has come to talk about women through graffiti.’’

WOW’s co-manager noted the women’s empowerment graffiti campaign is trying to combine the artistic expression of celebrating women’s strength with the activist message about the harsh reality affecting women.

‘’We can’t just portray women as victims, we also have to show that women are strong, and give that message back to women in the streets,’’Gröndahl said illustrating some cards with positive images of women on graffiti from local artists.

The more we as women work together and raise our voices as one united force, the more unstoppable we can be. It’s really cool to see the global sisterhood rising up to the challenge and using their talents to change the environment for the better for future generations. This serves as huge inspiration, and a reminder that those of us who live in a free society shouldn’t be complacent, but use our freedoms to aid those less fortunate. No one is going to tell you how to do that, it is up to each one of us to get creative and think outside the box, just like the men and women of WOW.



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