Rapper Mayam Mahmoud uses hip-hop to address issues such as sexual harassment and to stand up for women’s rights in Egypt.
Women played a significant role in the demonstrations that eventually toppled the regime of Hosni Mubarak in 2011. In the aftermath, however, the problem of sexual harassment has become what activists now describe as “an epidemic”.
The 18-year-old rose to prominence through her appearances on the popular TV show Arabs Got Talent. Aged 12, she was introduced to poetry by her mother. She began writing her own work, which soon turned into rap — still a male dominated music genre across the world.
“It’s got a lot of people talking about whether it’s possible for a veiled girl, or even a girl, to do this,” she says. “The girls in this field are thought to have bad morals. So it’s hard to find someone to work with her, to create a beat, to master the track.”
In order to develop her own voice, Mayam tries not to listen to western Hip hop and her songs tackle harassment and victim-blaming head-on – condemning Egyptian society for accepting harassment as part of everyday life, and for laying the blame for it on women rather than men.
“I won’t be the shamed one,” she says in one of her raps. “You flirt, you harass and you see nothing wrong with it. But even if it’s just words, these are not flirts, these are stones.”
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