Eighteen-year-old Mayam Mahmoud is an Egyptian rapper who fights for justice and equality for women through her music, tackling issues such as the harassment undergone by women daily.
Mahmoud was a sensation when she appeared on the television show “Arabs’ Got Talent” in October of 2013. Her messages include the condemnation of sexual harassment and the blaming of victims. In one song, “Femininity,” she says, “You look at me, I’m not going to be ashamed. You flirt and you harass, yet you think that you’re not wrong.”
Mahmoud familiarized herself with poetry at the age of 12. Influenced by what she read, she began to write her own poems which evolved into raps.
On March 20, 2014, Mahmoud received a Freedom of Expression award presented by the Index of Censorship, a publishing organization that advocates freedom of speech. Before the ceremony, she sat down with CNN to discuss her work. She explained that sexual harassment and unfair treatment of women are “issues that are very present in Egypt but no one is talking about them.”
While many applaud Mahmoud, there has been a mixed reaction from some. Rap is generally dominated by males, and Mahmoud may find difficulty as a female trying to succeed in the genre. Others claim that, by rapping, she is “creating a bad name for Islam.”
Nonetheless, Mahmoud’s message is supported by statistics. According to a 2008 survey conducted by the Egyptian Center for Women’s rights, 83 percent of Egyptian women have been harassed. In addition, Mahmoud hears many stories of discrimination from those she encounters at her university, where she is studying politics and social science.
Nabil Omer, junior at Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies and a fellow Muslim, voiced his support for Mahmoud’s music in an interview with JSR.
“It’s refreshing to hear music that isn’t about money and girls and drugs. It’s also important that someone is standing up for a nationwide problem such as sexual harassment. Mahmoud is extremely brave for voicing her thoughts because they are considered defiant and rebellious.”