An Egyptian woman who disguised herself as a man to help provide for her family after her husband’s death was honored by the local government Tuesday. The Social Solidarity Directorate of Luxor awarded Sisa Abu Daooh the “woman breadwinner” award, declaring her the “ideal mother” of the governorate.
Daooh, now 64, lost her husband while she was pregnant. After giving birth to her first and only daughter, she needed to find an income, a difficult prospect due to a local culture that looks down upon women in the workplace, according to Alarabiya.
To provide for her child and subsequent grandchildren, she donned a “jilbab,” a local robe-like garment with loose, long sleeves, a white turban and black masculine shoes to pose as a man for 43 years. She worked odd jobs mostly, polishing shoes and working fields and laying bricks.
“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 said. “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.”
“My mom is the one who still provides for the family,” said her daughter 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 is now advanced in age.”