21 March 2010
(Message to a Familiar Woman); Laila al-Hinnawi; Watani Corporation for Printing and Publishing; Cairo, March 2010
Message to a special woman
To every woman who supports her husband and to every man who supports his wife, Laila al-Hinnawi who has for some 50 years now been editor of Watani’s Woman and Child page, dedicates her book Risala ila Imra’a Maalouma (Message to a Familiar Woman). The book, which compriuses more than 30 articles printed in Watani throughout the past years, is the most recent publication in the Watani Book monthly series, printed by Watani Printing and Publishing Corporation.
The book has been issued in March, the beginning of Spring and the month of women. As Ms Hinnawi writes, it is not meant to offer advice—nobody really likes advice—but is the epitome of her experience as a woman who lived a full life and is now a grandmother.
Despite its title, the book is not addressed to women alone, but is a prescription for success that would interest every man and woman contemplating marriage, newly wed, or married couples who are trying to secure a happy life. However, due to the fact that women normally shoulder the major part of the responsibility of raising a family and rearing children, and need to exercise the utmost wisdom and patience in the process, the book is dedicated to them.
The central theme of the book is the woman and the family. Even if two people are ardently in love, it does not guarantee a long lasting relationship. The quest for familial happiness, Hinnawi believes, depends on how far our expectations can conform to the grounds of reality; meaning the couple’s financial and social status and, most importantly, what they expect from each other. This realisation of happiness mainly depends on fulfilling the emotional and psychological needs of the other. And the quest needs emancipation from selfishness and a deep understanding of the personality of the life partner.
Inside and outside the home
The book presents cases of couples suffering from different problems. The writer objectively describes each case and attempts to offer answers to problems by detecting their roots. One very common complaint in the Egyptian societies is when a woman discovers after years of marriage that she feels she has become so engrossed in child rearing and domestic affairs and has, in the process, lost her freshness and physical charm. She is taken for granted by her family, and her husband’s love for her has faded away.
Some of the tips the book heavily recommends are transparency and truth between partners. Furthermore, couples are strongly advised to tackle their problems on their own, without involving any outsider in decisions concerning them. The writer believes that no one party should subdue to the other, but skill should be used to making compromises and reach a middle ground.
The problems of working women are discussed in detail throughout the book. The modern woman’s financial independence has changed the old established concept of masculine hegemony. This enlightens working women of how to manage their time and how to fight stress by simple actions such as consecrating a few minutes every morning before breakfast to focus her thoughts. Women are also strongly advised to give special attention to good appearance and attire, both of which potentially lift a woman’s mood and boost her energy.
Health and hygiene
Hinnawi also sheds light on problems of hygiene in the family. Health and hygiene are topics which particularly interest women as a tool for nourishing a healthy family with a wholesome immune system. The book excels in providing statistics on how food can be a blessing or a woe depending on the manner in which it is cooked and presented. The writer advises to focus on simple cooking methods and avoid greasy meals which cause obesity and result in high cholesterol levels. Hinnawi warns against “food seduction” which usually targets the women who are feeling down or insecure or unhappy. And since the proportion of miserable women in our society is on the rise, the number of obese women is also increasing. The book provides a few outlets which help a woman conquer the desire to devour large amounts of food.
The issue of child education and upbringing from infancy till maturity dominates one third of the book. In one particularly interesting article, Hinnawi points out the most common mistakes that parents commit on that front. The writer warns that overprotective parents threaten the psychological growth of children and make them often dependent on others even as they grow into maturity. Allowing a child a reasonable degree of freedom leads to a confident personality, a strong character, and develops the decision making ability. The writer warns against gender discrimination within the family, where boys are favoured over girls especially in rural areas. The pampering—or the maltreatment—of children give rise to many a behavioural disturbance once these children are adults.
Message to a Familiar Woman is indeed a special book which every couple is encouraged to acquire and to reread every once in a while. It offers many practical lessons and precious tips to help them navigate their daily course without wrecking their boat on the rocks.
The book carries on its cover a painting for The Family painted exclusively for Watani Book by Wagdy Habashy. The predominant colours of blue and white give a lasting sense of family peace and love.