I was raised in a small village, in a humble, hardworking environment. Stories with such background always find a special place in my heart, I can relate to them and I can understand their depth, the struggle they are telling.
When it comes to harsh village life, in many places of the world, women are still those who get the worst of it. The Women of the village by Egyptian photographer Heba Khamis gives insight into such story.
It is a story about village women in Egpyt and their everyday journey, a journey they take because they need to do it in order to survive. They face hunger as they search for a better life – job, money, being able to provide for themselves.
In a country like Egypt, where a major part of society cannot imagine a place for a woman except in her home, with her family and under her husband’s control – this journey in search for work is particularly significant and risky for women.
“Um Alaa comes from Ezbet Sakhawy in Kafr al-Sheikh. The village is named after her family. Traders come to her house so that she can buy whatever she needs, while the rest of the women have to go to the markets. Each village market is held on only one day of the week. This means that if any of them wants something during the week, she has to go to a different village.”
“Seda, known as ‘Um Dalia’, works in Khurshid market in Sayah Kafr al-Sheikh. She is judged for sometimes showing her bare arms as she works. Though she has daily contact with the city, she still lives in a conservative society. Um Dalia is the mother of five girls, all of whom have completed higher education. She has managed to marry off three of them. Her next goal is to find husbands for the remaining two.”
“Her struggle begins as the sun rises, hurrying to catch the morning train to Alexandria. If she fails, the day is lost because there are no other cheap trains. The only remaining option then is to hire a car with other women for LE50 per person.”
“Hope for a better life is Salma’s companion. She is a 22-year-old a university student in her third year of study. Her subject is the origin of religion. Salma must organize her week carefully, rationing time for study and travel, covering her university costs and taking care of her family. As the eldest daughter, she is the one who looks after her sick father. Because of all these demands on her time, she attends university only one day a week, on Sunday. She has to work all the other days of the week. In the foreground, Hamida, 44 years old, is married and works to ensure that the children of her late brother have a decent life.”
“Soad takes cover under her scarf. The village beauties are on a constant journey that will not end until their lives come to a close. They have nothing but patience to ease their aches and pains. As she said, ‘I want to rest before I die.’ But then she remembered that she still has a daughter to be married and to furnish her house.”
This beautiful and important photo essay was published on Panorama, a platform for showcasing the best photojournalistic coverage of under-reported corners of Egypt and issues of interest to the greater Arab world.
The photograher, talented Heba Khamis, is now at a great crossroad in her life – and she needs a little help. She got a half scholarship from The Danish School for Media and Journalism in Denmark to study photojournalism where they will offer her a fee waiver but without any stipend.
She now started an IndieGoGo campaign to raise money which would help her accept the photojournalism grant, develop her skills and – give us many more great stories like The Women of the Village. If you can, please help her and share her story – even if you donate only a couple of dolars – it’s important!
I hope to hear and see much more of her work in the future.
//all photos © Heba Khamis//