Today Not Tomorrow is a new SAT-7 series that is not afraid to ask the hard questions. Questions especially that restrict the lives of women in the Arab world – including justifications for violence and coercion – and prevent them from enjoying the dignity and fulness of life that God wants for them.
The Middle East and North Africa is the second worst for gender equality in the world, according to the Global Gender Gap Index. Only Israel and the UAE appear in the top 100 countries (at 60th and 68th respectively). Today Not Tomorrow is part of a major SAT-7 Gender Equality and Freedom of Religion or Belief project that aims to overcome bias, stereotypes, and discrimination against women.
Today Not Tomorrow is undergirded by months of research. It mixes compelling individual stories with discussion and the invitation for viewers to have their say about topics that are rarely discussed even in their own households.
Violence and coercion
Social acceptance of violence and coercion were topics covered in two of the first episodes. Project research among teenage girls in Egypt had highlighted how many experienced regular beatings from parents. “Pain is good for me”, shared one participant. “When Baba (Daddy) hits me, he wants me to be a better person.”
In Today Not Tomorrow a mother of a thirty-year-old woman gave an example of male control among adults of two generations – in this case by a relative living thousands of miles away. “Before she goes on a trip, I call her brother who lives in the USA to ask his opinion first,” she explained.
Viewers were asked why societies often accept violence as a means of control. Callers to the programme agreed that all forms of violence are unacceptable, but said many perpetrators legitimise violence as a form of protection or guidance.
One viewer spoke of a form of control that, while not violent, diminishes girls and women. “Men sometimes deny their daughters’ presence by not mentioning them but always proudly share stories about their sons,” she said.
Christina in Minya said, “Thank you for discussing this topic because it is of great interest to me. Violence in all its forms is not acceptable or justified. In my work, I see a lot of violence against women, especially in rural areas.”
Down your street
Today Not Tomorrow has an innovative way of involving local people in the discussions. Around half of the programme is filmed out on the street in a different village every week. A mobile studio mounted on the back of a truck takes the programme out to the viewers.
Maggie Morgan who is leading the project and produces the programme, says, “Filming in local communities has drastically changed the work that we do”, Maggie explains. “When we are filming in a village, lots of calls come in from that village. Some villagers said that the presence of the crew, presenters, and project team was a catalyst for villagers to rethink practices.”
This approach has also brought an unexpected benefit. “There have been surprises, such as meeting Youstina, who has now become one of our presenters,” Maggie explains. “Despite her restrictive religious and village community, she has stood up to oppressive traditions. She is awesome!”
As a member of a street theatre company in Upper Egypt, she brought bags of experience in raising questions in public spaces around the problems facing women and children. They were many of the same questions the programme is addressing: “Asking why we can’t make tomorrow better, for everyone, not just for women,” Maggie explains.
“It is one thing to breathe and another thing when someone is preventing you from breathing,” Youstina says. “To me, freedom is life.”
Watch interview with Youstina
SAT-7 programmes help women across the Middle East and North Africa to be heard and equipped to make a full contribution to society. They call on women and men to work together to reflect God’s glory and acknowledge their equal value within families and communities.