Egyptian Woman Awarded ‘Best Mum’ Award After Dressing Like Man for 40 Years To Support Child

F2FA March 23, 2015

Sisa Abu Daooh
On Sunday, Sisa Abu Daooh (pictured left) was given the “best mum” award by Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi (pictured), after 40 years of dressing like a man so that she could provide for her daughter, reports the Guardian.

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In the 1970s, when she was six months pregnant with her first child, Daooh’s husband died, leaving her and her child instantly vulnerable.

Consequently, Daooh’s brothers attempted to get her remarried as soon as possible.

“My brothers wanted me to get married again,” she says. “All the time they kept bringing new grooms to me.”

But Daooh would reject all of the men.

When she tried to find work, Daooh was met with yet more obstacles due to her gender.

As a woman, she could have likely landed a socially acceptable office job, but the fact that Daooh’s family never sent her to school, leaving her illiterate, removed that option off of the table.

Labouring jobs were also seemingly out of the question because they were for men.

Or so most people thought.

With options few, Daooh decided to invent a male identity.

The Guardian reports:

She shaved her head, wore loose-fitting male robes, and made bricks and harvested wheat…. She later took to shoe-shining once her strength began to fade.

Of her decision, Daooh explains, “When a woman lets go of her femininity, it’s hard. But I would do anything for my daughter. It was the only way to make money. What else could I do? I can’t read or write, my family didn’t send me to school, so this was the only way.”

Interestingly enough, while the now-65-year-old Daooh dressed publicly as a man — describing herself as “strong as 10 men” in her prime — she never hid the fact that she is a woman from her co-workers and peers.

The Guardian reports:

“She’d sit in the coffee shop with the men, and passers-by wouldn’t notice. She was one of them,” says editor-owner of Luxor Times Mena Melad.

Many people realised she was female, calling her “Umm Hoda,” or “Hoda’s mum” – a common form of address in the Middle East. “I never hid it,” she remembers. “I wasn’t trying to keep it a secret.” Gradually her renown grew, to the extent that she now claims “the whole city of Luxor knows I’m a woman, from the smallest kid to the biggest man.”

Cross dressing reportedly had other benefits as well: it protected her from the otherwise “rampant sexual harassment” that women face in Egypt.

Of her experience Daooh adds, “I was happy. I was able to work men’s work, and all the people around me were happy with it. When men looked at me they looked at me as a man.”

Her devotion to her daughter was recently honored by the local government of Luxor, with the President presenting her with a certificate calling her the “most devoted mum” and a kiosk so that she can continue her current occupation as a shoe shiner.

These days, Daooh’s income goes to her grandchildren since her son-in-law cannot work due to illness.

When asked if she will ever stop wearing men’s clothes, Daooh responds, “I have decided to die in these clothes. I’ve got used to it. It’s my whole life and I can’t leave it now.”

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Last Edited by:Abena Agyeman-Fisher Updated: June 19, 2018


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