The New Housewives of Egypt
March 16, 2020
In December, a group of Egyptian women launched the Facebook group, “Has anyone seen my husband?” to expose unfaithful men. According to Esraa Nossier, one of group’s founders, it was imagined as a way to fill the role of the Khatba, traditionally a middle-aged woman that mothers hire to investigate potential partners for their children. Ballooning to more than 200,000 followers in its first two months, the group found its niche—it had successfully crowdsourced a traditional Egyptian female role.
Crowdsourcing of female roles is rising in Egypt. Families used to engage female matchmakers to find spouses for their children; dating apps have displaced some of that trade. In 2019, the Egyptian food delivery app Mumm launched a service to deliver homecooked meals directly to subscribers’ homes, easing the burden on working mothers without requiring a hiring a full-time maid.
In recent years, Egypt has also seen a proliferation of crowdsourced cleaning services, with a half-dozen apps competing for the attention of working couples. Notably, many of these on-demand cleaners are men. Industries that were described as “overwhelmingly” female as recently as 2012 are now noticeably less gendered.
Partly these apps are a function of women working longer hours. According to one study, women’s average work week jumped from 30 to 37 hours between 2006 and 2012. Even so, women’s domestic duties aren’t necessarily reducing. According to the World Bank, domestic unpaid work for married Egyptian women does not decrease when they join the labor market. While Egyptian women have increasing options to reduce their domestic workload, it may be some time before the Egyptian housewife becomes obsolete.
This article is part of the CSIS Middle East Program series Mezze: Assorted Stories from the Middle East.