Abu Daooh, the 64yr old widowed Egyptian woman pictured above, has opened up about having to disguise herself as a man for 43 years so she could work as a shoemaker, in addition to other manual labor jobs, in order to take care her family. Abu has now been honored by her Local government in Egypt with the 'woman breadwinner' award after her secret was let known to the officials.
Daooh lost her husband 43 years ago while she was pregnant with her only child, a girl. She said she decided to disguise because her community frowned at women who work. Daooh who wore a “jilbab” and a male hat known as a “Taqiyah” and black masculine shoes around, said she decided to disguise as a man so she could work and earn a decent living rather than beg on the streets.
"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. 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.”
She said she had at some point stopped working and married off her daughter to a man but that the man took ill and she had to continue working so she could fend for her daughter and grandchildren.
She added that she worked in an array of jobs, from “polishing shoes, to construction to agriculture.” At the moment, Abu Daooh says she is polishing shoes, which earns her a “decent income.”
Her daughter Houda said: “my mom is the one who still provides for the family. 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.”
Abu Daooh gave thanks to those who had helped her along the way. “Thanks to everyone who has helped me. I hope to see Egypt in a better situation.”