Elevate Difference

These Girls

Documentarian Tahani Rached is allowed intimate access into the lives of a tight-knit group of teenage girls living on the streets of Cairo, Egypt. This motley band of girls includes Tata, the ringleader; Danya, the self-proclaimed “fireball"; Abeer; Ze’reda; Maryam and Big Sister Hind, who offers advice and a shoulder to lean on. Although these teens are “voluntarily” homeless, viewers soon learn that they have chosen what they consider to be the lesser of two evils: the streets versus their abusive homes. The film opens with Tata riding a horse down a street crowded with cars. Surely a testament to her rebellious nature, this scene introduces a montage of scenes in which Tata scraps with men on the street, listens intently to a friend, plays, laughs and takes comfort in the arms of a friend. Her fierce, leader of the pack nature can be felt in the first few minutes of the film.

With no narration, virtually no filmmaker interaction and no judgment, viewers get a straightforward look at the horrors faced daily by these girls. Abeer is pregnant, following a gang rape, and she is unmarried and unsure of the identity of her baby’s father. Her own father has threatened her life in response. Maryam tells the story of how she fled her orphanage and was almost immediately drugged and raped in a park. She cut her hair and attempts to pass as a boy for protection. It is a constant struggle for these girls to find a safe place to sleep where they will not be harassed, raped or kidnapped and “stored” in Wheeza’s shack, a place where women are held for days, weeks or longer to be raped and possibly “scarred.” Maryam explains that protecting oneself against having her face cut and scarred is imperative, as it is a sign of shame: “If they don’t mark your face, you’re a hero.” Days and nights often drag, and the film’s pace follows suit, giving the viewers the feel of the slow, lonely times on the street. Tata and her friends sniff glue, smoke pot and take pills, admittedly, to get high and pass the time.

While it would be easy to feel completely heartbroken for these girls, and outraged by their situation, neither the film nor its stars seek pity or sympathy. In fact, while viewers will most certainly feel sympathy for these teens, they will also feel inspired by their courage, their determination, their loyalty and the joy they find in each other.

Written by: Becky Ramsey, June 27th 2007