In a patriarchal society where men can expect to control their wives' career choices and have a final say over all household matters, a woman may go out into the world, find a job as a housekeeper, earn money, and support her whole family. However, her power and status at home may not change at all, so she ends up carrying the burden, rather than the privilege of being the sole provider.
2019 - Ongoing
Being a woman, documentary photographer, and having been directly impacted by these patriarchal structures, I was drawn towards connecting with these strong, intelligent women who are burdened with the financial responsibilities of providing for their families while enduring the societal pressure of expected gender norms.
Breadwinners is a record of female housekeepers who are overlooked and relegated to the fringes of Egyptian society. In this personal project, I took a documentary and portrait approach to produce a series of portraits shedding light on and representing female housekeepers employed in homes in Cairo, Egypt. It is also a series of self-education and investigation into the impact of Egyptian culture and the prevailing power of patriarchy on these women's lives.
Female housekeepers in Cairo often take on the role of a surrogate mother at their place of employment, sometimes living in the same house, cooking, cleaning, ironing, and caring for the children in the house. It is not unusual for a domestic worker to be seen as part of the family, even though their duties are in many ways more akin to those of a servant.
More pressing is their treatment under the Unified Labour Law in Egypt. These female domestic workers are not provided with any sort of legal protection. In fact, legislators had actively sought to deprive them of legal protection because they do not understand how to compare a domestic worker to a regular one - their work is not seen as real or worthy of labour protection laws.
The sheer amount of effort and time required of them to do all this work, and yet not be given any appreciation, legal support, or respect deeply resonated with me, and I hope that these portraits prompt viewers to appreciate and celebrate these dignified women and the work they do in their communities.