For more than four decades, Egyptian mother Sisa Abu Daooh dressed as a man to provide for her family. Last week, she was awarded the “woman breadwinner” award by the authorities in her hometown of Luxor and was congratulated in person by the Egyptian president.
Abu Daooh, 65, was celebrated on Sunday in a ceremony at the Egyptian presidential palace, where she met President Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi and received a prize of about $6,500, Agence France Presse reports. Wearing a traditional male robe and turban while receiving the award, Abu Daooh was praised by the president as “an exemplary working woman.“
Abu Daooh was pregnant with her daughter Houda when her husband passed away in the 1970s, leaving her as the sole breadwinner of the family, Al-Arabiya reported. Abu Daooh quickly found that in a traditional Egyptian society at the time, few jobs were available to illiterate women, and it proved much easier to find work dressed as a man. She took up jobs in brick making and shoe shining, but altered her appearance to avoid being harassed.
“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 told the network.
— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) March 18, 2015
Even now, Abu Daooh is still working away. The husband of Abu Daooh’s daughter can’t work, The Guardian noted, so the mother continues to contribute to the family’s income. “My mom is the one who still provides for the family,” Abu Dooah’s daughter said, according to Al Arabiya. “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 Dooah told The Guardian that she has gotten used to her men’s clothes, and intends to spend the rest of her life in them. “I have decided to die in these clothes. I’ve got used to it. It’s my whole life and I can’t leave it now,” she told the newspaper.