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Empowering Women and Girls Q1 2024

Accessible social media comedy series breaks gender stereotypes in the Middle East

Maria Elayan, presenter of Smatouha Minni

Aparna Subramanyam

Head of Communications, Womanity

Smatouha Minni, headlined by Maria E’layan, is a hilarious online series dismantling gender stereotypes for MENA millennials through wit and satire.

The first episode of ‘Smatouha Minni’ (You Heard From Me) opens with: “I know you won’t believe it. But they found out that women have been on earth the same amount of time as men have.” Smatouha Minni is a 10-part series presented by young Middle Eastern social media influencer Maria E’layan.

Satirical series challenging stereotypes

In this accessible, funny and satirical series, E’layan plays different archetypes and scenarios where she touches on topical and controversial issues such as honour, domestic violence, harassment, masculinity, gender and health, parenting, periods and the value of women in general.

Around 79% of female Arab representation in mainstream media continues to reinforce negative, harmful and derogatory stereotypes of women. Gender biases, identified as a major obstacle to women’s progress in the Middle East and North Africa, demand collective efforts for change. Shifting deep-rooted stereotypes requires the collaborative attention and participation of both women and men in the region.

Platform highlighting gender issues creatively

Smatouha Minni finds engaging ways to dismantle these entrenched gender stereotypes and is specifically targeted at millennials in the Middle East. The series was conceptualised and directed by Amanda Abou Abdallah as part of Khateera — a bold digital platform that focuses on women and their diverse issues and experiences in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region.

Conceptualised by and incubated at Womanity from 2019 to 2021, Khateera — which translates to ‘dangerous woman’ — is now an independent entity with multiple successful shows and 1.2+ million followers across its channels. Smatouha Minni is a powerful illustration of Womanity’s commitment to accelerating social change and creating a positive impact by working with digital media creatively.

Boosting gender awareness across countries

An impact evaluation of the first season revealed significant knowledge improvement on gender inequality after exposure to the show, which has over 20 million views to date. In Jordan, gender knowledge increased by 17%. In Egypt, there was a 24% improvement. Over 90% of participants were eager to discuss what they learned — an unusually high engagement for a factual programme.

“Effective communication on sensitive topics to young Arab audiences involves weaving satire, humour, facts and good storytelling. With the growing reach of social media platforms and streaming services in the region, there’s a significant opportunity to leverage the power of media to influence the gender equality narrative and reshape gender-biased behaviour,” says Shivani Gupta, Co-CEO of Womanity.

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