Launched in October, the app currently has over 3,000 registered users — most between the ages of 18 and 35 — and about one-third are male rescuers. The majority of users are concentrated in downtown Cairo, Dokki, Shubra, Nasr City, Heliopolis, Maadi, Helwan and other sections of Giza. Admittedly, 3,000 is a tiny number in a city of 9.5 million, but it’s a start. “It won’t solve the problem but it will reduce it,” says Helal, whose focus is raising awareness of the threat women face in their everyday lives as much as exposing and punishing harassers.
Critics argue that gender-specific services aren’t good for the empowerment of Egypt’s women. “Women-only projects are unhealthy for society and won’t make women feel safer or even end sexual harassment,” says Evon Mosad, activist and member of the National Front for Egyptian Women, a body that fights gender discrimination. “Men and women should mix in a natural and respectful way to form a healthy society.” But the feisty founders of these driving schools don’t see them merely as a service to those who can afford it, or as helping some women find empowerment. They’re also battling larger stereotypes.
Music is a controversial issue in Islam. While certain branches such as Sufism consider music central to their religious rituals, some conservatives consider it to be a tool of intoxication, especially songs with non-religious themes and those sung by women. The Quran, however, does not forbid music, nor does any Islamic country forbid all music.