Scene One: Early 1900s
A young woman of 15 — clueless as to what her parents call “entering womanhood” and what it has to do with refraining her from playing football with her older brothers — is trying to get excited about the prospect of a suitor.
From carefree games in the garden with the boys to hours of trivial chit chat and courses on what it is like to be a good mother and wife, she knows it is the fate — if not a primary life goal — of any young woman of reputable descent.
Her educational path has been confined to a few religion classes, languages and midwifery, despite her keen mind and secret interest in architecture, her father and older brother’s field.
She is engaged to a man deemed “eligible” by her parents, but she has yet to see him.
Scene Two: The New Millennium
It is 7pm on a Thursday night, and they are still busy at work, pens in hairs, running around in circles to meet their deadlines in time for their weekly night out.
Chatting over coffee, each one of these young women has an accomplishment to boast about and at least one man-related story to share — and more often than not, complain about. They remind each other that they need to get back on their laptops and finish that never-ending business plan.
Free to choose the life they lead, one is a young marketer who has wanted to become a businesswoman for as long as she can remember, the second is a PR consultant who was already running her own talent management agency before she turned 30 and the third has quit her editor job at a prestigious magazine to juggle between creating 19TwentyThree, freelance journalism, a husband and a PhD.
Together, the three young women have joined forces to create an online community for all the women out there who, like us, struggle between the daily stresses of being a career woman, a stay at home mom, a student or partner.
Hopefully you will find refuge in 19TwentyThree from the trials and tribulations of your daily lives. 19TwentyThree is about everything woman, if there is something you want to know, read, write or even vent about, then this is definitely your go to spot.
19TwentyThree is a tribute to all the great women who risked their lives, their status and all they held dear to make our stifled voices heard outside the sanctity of our confined haramleks. And needless to say, the equally great women of today who are constantly struggling between being great moms, daughters, sisters, wives, friends, businesswomen, fabulous fashion icons and everything else in between.
So Why 19TwentyThree?
Before you start guessing, it has nothing to do with the 1923 constitution — well, not primarily anyway.
After a series of endless brainstorming sessions, What’s App discussions, back and forth emails, being chastised by our designer Chadi Serhal who, bless him, vetoed off most of the names we suggested and, most importantly, lots of hair tearing, we finally found a name we all instantly fell in love with. Our designer, bored with our hesitation and endless list of name suggestions — including names the likes of Mandessi, but that’s a different story — has suggested we name it after a date that meant something to women. And that was that — we had a name.
It didn’t take more than 10 minutes to decide upon the event, and 19TwentyThree won the name competition hands down after Serhal had suggested it as an example, but we didn’t have to think twice.
In May 1923, Hoda Shaarawi did something that changed the course of women in the region for life, despite being a rather small gesture, it paved the way towards the liberation of women from all around the Arab world. Upon her arrival from a feminist conference in Rome — yes, our women in the 1920s were already participating in feminist conferences — she, alongside Ceza Nabarawy and Nabaweya Moussa took their face veils off. Exhilarated by the three women’s defiance of meaningless traditions, the crowd cheered as many followed suit.
However small the act seems now, in the 1920s, it meant women were taking control of their own appearance and demanding their rights. Shortly before, Shaarawi and a group of pioneering women founded the Egyptian Feminist Union (EFU) in March of 1923 and thus the birth of the feminist movement in the Arab world.
Overall, it was a fabulous year for women across the Arab world, a year that shaped our fates and made everything women are today possible — including launching an online magazine that can openly discuss careers and men.
Hats off to all the great women from all across the Arab world — past and present.
Editor’s Note: Read more about how Shaarawi and her colleagues’ actions made it possible for a girl to dream of being the next president here, and the impact they had on women’s integration in society here.