A new landmark series on SAT-7 ARABIC is drawing together women from three generations and six Arab countries to encourage change in male-dominated families and communities.
From the start the Egyptian production team for The Secret Within set themselves a twofold challenge. Firstly, to find articulate, open-hearted women from three generations who understand biblical truth and women’s rights, and, secondly, to find them in six Arab countries. Added to that came the unexpected challenge of filming during a pandemic!
Finding the right participants wasn’t easy, said producer Romany Youssef. But when they did, they extracted “gems”, he said, “women who know the biblical truth and understand that a woman isn’t just a gender but a person with value”.
Each episode features conversation between the Egypt team and a special guest plus conversation between three women from one of the five other nations: Syria, Sudan, the Palestinian Territories, Tunisia and Lebanon. Youssef said this allows women from across the Arab world to feel represented, recognise their shared experiences and address different situations together.
As a man, Youssef said the series has messages for his gender too: “In the whole Arab region, we saw how women suffer from problems such as shame, men’s low regard, women’s lack of self-confidence.”
Sara, one of the presenters of The Secret Within, said: “We have this culture of men dominating society. We want to restore God’s blueprint for women.”
This involves “taking women on a journey”, she explained, firstly to see themselves as God does. “After her image of herself has been changed, she can have an impact on the sphere around her and restore women’s relations with men. Then men and women can properly reflect God’s image and glory.”
One of the things I like about The Secret Within is that you all represent different age groups. There is a great sharing of experience between you. This is an example we can present to women so that they will learn from one another’s experience and what they achieved.” Suzy, guest counsellor on the show
Bringing together three generations of women in each country adds another dimension. Younger women lean on the wisdom of older ones, mature voices hear fresh approaches, and the middle generation is a bridge between them. In a changing region where two-thirds of the population are under 35, this listening is important.
In 30 episodes the show covers topics including femininity, choosing a partner, motherhood, the empty nest, stopping abuse, and God in the family.
The next step
Viewers, too, have the opportunity to interact on social media, and when the series is complete, another step of the journey begins. The team will identify the 50 women who have engaged the most with the series on SAT-7’s social media and invite them to take part in leadership training. Sara explained: “We want to enable women to become more and more real leaders in their communities, shaping them to affect the lives of many others in different areas of society.”
God and pain
Suffering is something none of us seek but all of us experience. In a recent episode of The Secret Within, the series’ Egyptian hosts, Syrian presenters and a guest psychologist shared their encounters with suffering and the impact it has had on their lives.
Hala, the pscyhologist, spoke of losing her young daughter after a six-year struggle with cancer and how this changed her priorities to seeing that “being a parent [to her son] is the most important thing in the world”.
Eleanor shared the sense of abandonment she felt when all her cousins and relatives emigrated when the civil war broke out in Syria. For Mirna, the hardest time was having to decide to break off her engagement only days before marriage.
Rania spoke of the pain of losing her mother when she was a young girl and how this pain returns whenever she sees a loved one dying. Failing to show empathy can make another’s pain worse, Mira shared: “Whenever I express my pain, I am told there’s worse. But I want someone to show empathy and be understanding.”
Commenting on these experiences, the presenters reflected on how God is with us in our pain and wants to bring healing. The Syrian war meant that both Rania and her husband lost their jobs, but God gave her new strength. She said, “I was in shock but I remembered that I don’t have a spirit of death but of power and so I changed my career to serve others. Instead of a person in pain, I became a support to others.”