Challenging commonplace cultural practices
There are many inherited cultural practices that have a strong and harmful hold on society in parts of the Middle East and North Africa. Cruelty in classrooms and female genital mutilation (FGM) are two examples which are all too commonplace in the region. SAT-7’s newest channel, SAT-7 ACADEMY, which began broadcasting last month, seeks to create awareness, challenge attitudes and change minds towards such traditional, yet inhumane, practices. This is part of the channel’s mission to address the physical, emotional, relational and intellectual needs of children, parents and teachers in the region.
Violence in School is a 14-episode programme which addresses the issues of bullying, teachers using violence to control students and aggressive behaviour between pupils. SAT-7’s Arabic Channels Programming Director, George Makeen explains: “Violence in schools in the Middle East is a huge issue. If we approach teachers with an accusatory manner, they don’t know how to respond. Sometimes they are in a classroom with sixty to eighty students and they don’t know how to control them without being aggressive.”
Violence in School aims to provide helpful advice to teachers on how to deal with students and manage chaotic classrooms without using physical force. The programme also promotes tolerance between students and discusses the negative long-term effects of bullying. Makeen explains that violence sometimes starts at home from parents, influencing students’ behaviour at school. The programme challenges parents’ habits and emphasises that violence at home has additional negative repercussions in other areas of their children’s lives.
Female circumcision is a tradition followed mostly in Egypt and Sudan. It is not a religious practice but is followed by both Christian and non-Christian families. It is a cultural belief that women need to be circumcised to stay pure.
“Female genital mutilation is a practice that will take time and effort by us to constantly address it, to start seeing people’s beliefs about this practice begin to change,” states Makeen.
SAT-7 ACADEMY is broadcasting is a series of eleven short factual documentaries on FGM. Each one presents testimonies from young girls and women who have undergone FGM and how this horrifying experience has affected their lives. They discuss what it means to have their bodies and rights violated, and how they feel unprotected and unsafe as a result of the procedure. Over 95 percent of prostitutes in Egypt and Sudan are victims of FGM. Such information helps people understand that the tradition does nothing to preserve a woman’s purity: FGM is not the answer.
“We want people to know that FGM has nothing to do with women’s purity,” says Makeen. “This practice doesn’t help the family and it doesn’t help to create a happier marriage. Despite laws being put in place, somehow the mindset has not yet changed. There has been an improvement, but the majority still practice FGM. This is why we need to campaign against this horrific practice continually.”
- Give thanks for the successful launch of SAT-7 ACADEMY and that it is also being streamed live on the internet. Continue to pray that SAT-7 ACADEMY would receive additional funding to enable the production of more ground-breaking programmes which challenge prejudice and violence.
- Pray for teachers watching Violence in Schools, that they would be equipped to manage difficult classroom situations with grace and peace.
- Ask that parents watching Violence in Schools would understand that change towards a more tolerant mindset in society in general begins with their influence over their own children.
- Pray for the victims of FGM who have bravely shared their experiences on SAT-7. Ask that they would receive physical and emotional healing from their trauma. Pray that the FGM documentaries aired on SAT-7 ACADEMY would begin to alter attitudes towards this inhumane cultural practice.