“A media attempt to break the chains.” This is how producer and presenter Julie Nakouzi describes her new programme for women on SAT-7.
Because I am a Woman, which started on 10 February, is a documentary-style show that is investigating some of the most controversial and shocking issues that affect women in the Arab world. It takes a hard-hitting factual approach featuring statistics and expert analysis as well as covering real-life stories. Religious leaders are invited to give their perspective on the topic in question.
The show’s launch comes as a campaign for International Women’s Day on 8 March calls for people around the world to “pledge for parity”. This is a pertinent issue for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), which has the lowest overall regional rating for gender equality, according to the World Economic Forum.
Women are considered to have lower status and worth than men, and are consequently vulnerable to discrimination, abuse and violence. SAT-7 wants to see women in the MENA restored to their God-given identity and value. Our programmes promote women’s rights, advocate justice for women and present a Christian view on social and family issues.
Julie said: “Because I am a Woman represents the painful reality but will also send a message of hope for a solution. We won’t portray women as victims but we will support a victim wherever she is, raising the voice of truth above every lie.”
The first episode of Because I am a Woman highlighted the shocking scale of honour crimes in the MENA with statistics for different countries revealing hundreds of incidents every year.
The show featured the devastating case of ten-year-old Ma’ab from Yemen, who was tortured by her father for days before being shot dead and thrown over a cliff. He had become convinced that his ex-wife was inciting the girl to sleep with men to disgrace his name, despite three doctors confirming that she was a virgin.
In an interview on the show, Dr Gulnar Wakim, a sociologist at Lebanese University, said: “Honour crimes are common in the Arab world because a man is allowed to be in control and hides behind a religion that condones it, and unfortunately the punishment of honour crimes isn’t punished like any other crime. But when a woman commits such a crime against a man, she is punished by the law like any other crime.”
Dr Martin Accad from the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Lebanon provided a Christian perspective on the subject, explaining that honour crimes are completely unacceptable in Christianity. He said that the Bible teaches that men and women are equal in everything including punishment, and that each person is responsible for his/her own sin.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
Among other topics addressed by Because I am a Woman is the highly controversial practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
An episode on this topic features two contrasting stories. Sabah from Egypt recalls the day her parents forced her to undergo FGM, which she describes as an agonisingly painful experience that scarred her for life. Now married, Sabah withstood pressure from her husband and family and refused to let her daughter undergo the procedure. But Nancy from Ethiopia, who underwent FGM without anaesthetic as a child and described it as the worst experience of her life, has made her daughters undergo the procedure because she considers it the “the right thing to do” in the eyes of society.
Because I am a Woman does not take a dogmatic approach but rather presents traditional cultural views alongside a clear Christian perspective and allows viewers to judge for themselves.