Egypt Honors Widow Who Dressed as a Man to Feed Family for 43 Years

The Social Solidarity Directorate of Luxor in Egypt is honoring Sisa Abu Daooh this week for disguising herself as a man for 43 years in order to provide for her family. She did not have a source of income after her husband passed away.

Daooh won the “woman breadwinner” award for taking care of her daughter and grandchildren. Her husband passed away while she was pregnant with their daughter. Unfortunately, her culture “opposed women in the work place.” This forced her take drastic measures. From al-Alarabiya:

She worked making bricks and polishing shoes in the street among other jobs. Eventually, she married off her daughter to a man who later fell ill and couldn’t work. So, being a resourceful woman, Abu Daooh kept up her work as the breadwinner of her family.

She donned a local “jilbab” – a loose, full-length robe with wide sleeves – as well as a white turban, or sometimes a men’s hat known as a “Taqiyah” and black masculine shoes.

“I preferred working in hard labor like lifting bricks and cement bags and cleaning shoes to begging in the streets in order to earn a living for myself and for my daughter and her children,” she explained. “So as to protect myself from men and the harshness of their looks and being targeted by them due to traditions, I decided to be a man … and dressed in their clothes and worked alongside them in other villages where no one knows me.”

Houda, her daughter, married “a man who later fell ill and unable to work.” Daooh returned to work for the family.

“My mom is the one who still provides for the family,” said Houda. “She wakes up every day at 6 a.m. to start polishing shoes at the station in Luxor. I carry the work kits for her as she now advanced in age.”


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