Lina Geoushy documents the female sports athletes pushing back against Egypt’s biased sporting culture

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Geoushy’s response to Malala Fund ’s Against All Odds charge, in collaboration with 1854, follows the lives associated with Rooka, a footballer, plus Malak, a gymnast. The resulting project spotlights the particular young women’s resilience  in the face of deep-rooted social stigma and lack of sponsorship and funding

The inky shape of 20-year-old Rooka rests razor sharp against a fading Cairo sun: her arms outstretched, her face towards the sky, a football masterfully balanced between her nose and forehead. Through Lina Geoushy’s lens, Rooka  is breaking free.  

Such as many parts of the world, Egypt’s football industry is not the welcoming space for women.   Support from the Egyptian Football Association is within short supply, and mass media interest for their matches almost nonexistent. When an Egyptian system did broadcast a Women’s U20 National Football Team match in December 2020, it triggered a torrent of misogynistic abuse from guys online. The conservative inclined of Egyptian society also means many parents are reluctant to permit girls to pursue the sport in the first place.  

Nonetheless, Rooka was a dedicated player for the purpose of Egypt’s Junior National Group, and one of two subject matter that take centre stage in Geoushy’s response to the Against All Odds percentage from Malala Fund plus 1854. Titled Cleopatras Scoring Change , the series delicately paperwork the daily lives of Rooka and 20-year-old Olympic gymnast Malak: two Egyptian female athletes who stand for strength and determination in the face of stigma and discrimination by country’s discriminatory sporting culture.  

“Malak and Rooka are breaking stereotypes that are ingrained in Egyptian culture”

-Lina Geoushy

1854 x Malala Fund: Against All Chances © Lina Geoushy 2021

Cairo-born Geoushy has small interest in fuelling false Western ideas that all Middle Far eastern women are oppressed. Egypt women are educated; they work, drive, go out, and enjoy many freedoms. But , “Malak and Rooka are busting stereotypes that are ingrained in Egyptian culture, ” she says, “where mixing along with men and moving or revealing your body lessens your value as a woman”. Cleopatras Scoring Change is an ode for their resilience – and to sports, more widely, as a vital section of young people’s search for identification, community, and purpose.

Rooka grew up in one of Cairo’s impoverished neighbourhoods: a quarter associated with Manshiyat Naser. She was bullied by other kids for her dark skin, but found solace in actively playing football as part of a local church group. It was there that she was first scouted with a coach for her impressive abilities. But as she got older, her parents weren’t supportive of her pursuing the sport as a career. “They felt it was not female enough; that she was going to get injured, and that the girl skin would get even darker [from being outside too much]. ” 

Rooka was not deterred. Through her adolescent years, she saved up money her father provided her for specific reasons – to buy lunch from school; to spend on private tutoring lessons –  and used it to pay for public transportation to get to football training. She’d hide injuries she suffered while playing, enduring the pain in private out of worry about her parents would ban her from the game when they knew.  

1854 x Malala Fund: Against All of Odds © Lina Geoushy 2021

1854 x Malala Fund: Against Almost all Odds © Lina Geoushy 2021

In Geoushy’s images, Rooka is at once wistful and determined: intimate occasions in her bedroom, plus gazing over her hometown, are weaved between pictures of her stretching plus playing on the pitch. “I am hoping all my effort and all the effort I place in comes to fruition, ” Rooka says today. “And that I can prove to my family or anyone who demotivated me it turned out all worth it. ”

Malak, on the other hand, came to her sport of choice – gymnastics – aged nine. She generally felt she had to force herself further to compensate for not having begun training previously in life. In particular, she has arrived at struggle with mental blocks, brought on by the sheer pressure from the sport. “With gymnastics, one particular wrong move can finish your career, ” Geoushy clarifies, which fosters a dangerous culture for athletes; one which Simone Biles bravely delivered to light when she lowered out of the 2021 Olympics due to mental health struggles this year.  

“I saw me personally in those girls”

– Lina Geoushy

1854 x Malala Fund: Against All Odds © Lina Geoushy 2021

But , like Rooka, Malak’s hard work soon began to get her places. She has achieved numerous medals for her flashing achievements, and this year produced history at the Olympics: the girl was the first ever Egyptian lady on the first reserve towards the finals, coming in 9th location overall. Malak also got little support from the girl parents growing up. Gesturing to some joyful photograph of Malak posing proudly on her kid scooter, Geoushy laughs: “It’s extremely uncommon for girls to go with scooters. Cairo traffic is brutal. But generally there she is, all brave. ” 

1854 x Malala Fund: Against All Odds © Lina Geoushy 2021

1854 x Malala Fund: Against All Odds © Lina Geoushy 2021

1854 x Malala Account: Against All Odds © Lina Geoushy 2021

Malak evades confinement inside any singular box. “Some people in Egypt get this stereotype that athletic women are not feminine, ” explains Geoushy. But Malak will be both. “And even though the girl [sporting] outfits doesn’t conform with religion for a lot of , ” – Geoushy is referring to the leotards, vests and shorts Malak wears when the girl trains – ”she still very much has faith, and does her best to pray five times a day. This concept that people who pray are always within headscarves is just not true. ” In one photograph by Geoushy, Malak soars above the trampoline, suspended in the air. “I love the metaphor of the girl jumping against gravity and pushing against all chances, ” says Geoushy. “It really is what she’s doing. ”

Speaking to Geoushy, it really is clear that documenting the particular lives of Rooka plus Malak for the Against All of the Odds commission was a good emotional endeavour for her. “I saw myself in those people girls, ” she claims -—  referring to her own background as an once-professional tennis participant in Cairo. Like Malak, Geoushy took up tennis when she was nine; such as Rooka, her mother was worried her skin would certainly darken in the sun. “Back in that case, women were expected to end up being soft and feminine, ” she says, “but golf made me feel powerful… It really shaped my character. ”

Geoushy’s tennis career came to a premature finish aged 19, when her father chose not to permit her to attend college in the us, despite her having been honored a scholarship there. In America, university students are encouraged to nurture their athleticism alongside their studies, whereas “in Egypt, you have to make choices, ” the photographer describes. “[You have] to choose between education and sports activities, because the system doesn’t assistance both. ” 

The Egypt government has a history of positioning sports as at chances with, or irrelevant to, schooling. Only in 2018 did President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi call for the ownership of physical education inside schools. 10 years ago, UNESCO had no record of PE classes in grades first through third in public areas schools throughout Egypt, and recorded only two hrs per week for fourth via sixth grades. Malala Fund ’s mission is to ensure every single girl around the world has access to 12 years of free, safe and sound, quality education.; Iin Geoushy’s case, she hopes to find out an Egypt wherein sports can not only align with this, but play an important function for those who want it to.

1854 a Malala Fund: Against Most Odds © Lina Geoushy 2021

1854 x Malala Finance: Against All Odds © Lina Geoushy 2021

Geoushy studied psychology and communication at the American University in Cairo., which This went on to inform her photography practice – which is —  centered largely around gender issues, and the deconstruction of patriarchal power structures. “When I am interacting with girls and women, or anyone, the human component comes first, ” she says. “Psychology helped me learn to read body language, and understand which topics to address and which topics not to address… [It] helps me understand what motivates people and what traumas could have occurred, to avoid triggering them. ”

Geoushy met with Rooka and Malak numerous times before ever taking a photo of them, instead sitting and talking with the girls; nurturing authentic relationships with them. The deeper they got to know one another, the better the pictures became. Jus t as Malala Fund ’s digital publication, Assembly , works to amplify the voices ofgirls plus young women directly – not speaking for them, but providing them with a platform to do so on their own – Geoushy saw the particular project as a collaborative energy. The girl fervently encouraged the girls’ input as to how they wished to be represented, and what these people wanted to wear. She is furthermore developing a short film about the pair, in which they speak firsthand about their lives and encounters.  

“I want our voice heard, ” states Geoushy, resolutely. “And I would like other women’s voices heard. I’m amplifying our sounds together. Photography is really simply a tool for that. ”

To learn more visit Malala Fund


@linageoushy

linageoushy. com

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Flossie Skelton

Flossie Skelton joined British Newspaper of Photography in 2019, where she is currently Commissioning Editor across awards, Facility and partner content. She does freelance writing, editing and enhancing and campaign work throughout arts, culture and feminism; she has worked with BBC Arts, Belfast Photo Festival and Time’s Up. She is furthermore an illustrator, with art work published in Marie Claire, ES Magazine, Sunday Times Style and the Guardian.

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