Why Not: A Series Sheds the Light on Children Adoption in Egypt

Because Children's Place is Home
Nada (Menna Shalaby) in a scene from “leh laa” series.

In Egypt, there are many issues that people are not familiar with yet, or they do not accept them depending on old legacies and misconceptions. One of these issues is children’s adoption, either by a family or an unmarried woman. But the issue is more complicated when it comes specifically to a woman who is not married and decides to adopt a child.

Adoption is always a controversial issue in the Arab world, and this used to happen when a family takes the decision, but what will happen if an unmarried woman thinks of that?

Women hear sentences like, “Why are you doing this to yourself? It is a difficult responsibility! You are still young and have a chance to marry! This decision will be an obstacle if someone wants to marry you” and so on!

However, a new Egyptian series challenged those beliefs by presenting the story of an unmarried woman who was attached to a young child at an orphanage and decides to adopt him.

While presenting the last episodes of the series, the Egyptian Ministry of Social Solidarity announced that it had received the largest number of child adoption requests in one year in the history of the ministry, and it stated that it had received more than 2,700 requests after the screening of the series.

"Leh Laa"(Why not) Season 2 stars Menna Shalaby, Ahmed Hatem, Sara Abdelrahman, the child Selim Mostafa and directed by Maryam Abu Auf, was written by Mariam Naoum. This success is the second after Season One which starred actress Amin Khalil and discussed the issue of women's independence.

Nada (Menna Shalaby) and the child yunis (Selim Mostafa) hugging in a scene from “leh laa” series.

THE PLOT AND THE UNEXPECTED ENTHUSIASM

The surprise is that the series accomplished a great hit while screening its first episodes, and many Egyptian viewers interacted with the character by praising her decision in a great change in Egyptian society's attitude towards such issues.

Several reasons push women to choose this way. Most women have the dream of being a mother. They have this attachment towards children, the care they love to introduce, the happiness they feel while seeing them growing up, the instinct they have towards them, but on the other hand, raising a child is not a paved road, it is a decision that changes your life! The heroine of “Leh Laa” series who took this unpaved road is Nada (Menna Shalaby). So how was her story?

Nada, 37, an eye doctor, lives alone in her family's house in a classy neighborhood after her parents died, and her only brother traveled to work in the Gulf countries. From time to time she goes to her rural village, to treat patients and with the flow of events, she decides to adopt a child.

BUT WHAT MOTIVATED NADA TO THINK ABOUT ADOPTION

In 1936, the British psychoanalyst John Bowlby, who is known for his pioneering work in attachment theory, was concerned with the disorders of children who grow up in care institutions and orphanages and who appear to have various emotional problems, it seemed to him that such children are unable to love because they lack the opportunity to form a strong attachment with the image of the mother in their early childhood.­

A girl from Nada's village gave birth to a child without being married and for fear of her family, she left her with Nada to protect her. Nada discovered while taking care of the baby (Ahlam) that she needs to feel like a mother. She felt that there is something she is missing and it can make her happier! So why not?

"When the mother gives birth, she experiences a psychological confusion and a storm of changing feelings and hormones, between being happy because of having a baby and being afraid for him. She feels that she has not had the experience and her whole life system changes and differs,"

"The same thing happens with the adoptive mother, with the addition of her facing societal reactions, especially if she is unmarried," Dr. Heba Sobhi, a psychologist and assistant lecturer of clinical psychology at Tanta University told Majalla.

Nada decides to leave the baby girl in an orphanage, then she found out that she is missing her! "She gave a soul to the house," Nada said in a conversation with her friend in one of the episodes.

But while going through the steps, Nada chooses Yunis (Selim Mostafa), another boy in the orphanage, to adopt him. "Ahlam made me realize that I need to be a mother, but Yunis is the one whom my heart chose,"

And the challenges begin.

Nada (Menna Shalaby) studying for the child Yunis (Selim Mostafa) in a scene from “leh laa” series.

 NOT THAT EASY!

"It is a sweet and beautiful step towards social solidarity and charitable works, but things are not only emotional. The responsibility also is great and the decision is not temporary, this will live with the person the whole life," Dr. Mai Zahran, a psychiatrist at Abbasiya Hospital in Cairo, explained to Majalla.

"The idea of adopting children comes with two facts - like all things that have advantages and also have difficulties. Children love us and give us emotions and also cause us challenges, given the innate connection between the original mother and her son that does not happen in the adopting cases," she added.

“Leh Laa” also introduced different experiences of motherhood: Nada who does not have children, the mother who lost her son, the mother who likes her work more than being a mother and suffers from postpartum depression and the mother who abandons her baby. These different cases prove that we are human and our reactions to even this innate instinct are different.

"The adoptive mother is a mother like the original one, there are problems she will face and mistakes she will make. All mothers should try their best to be good for their children, but the woman who adopted a child has a double responsibility," Dr. Heba Sobhi said to Majalla.

Regarding science, adapting to the adopted child's existence is easier than if the child is four or five years old because he has already begun to shape his personality and has different interests and behaviors.

The thing is also related to the environment the child is used to living in. The shift that happens in his daily routine, and the new people he is surrounded by make him feel strange and uncomfortable. As we see Yunis, this new world of Nada's family and community is unknown and strange for him, the club and the new school, along with the difficulties of education, the struggle also of changing the certain rules that are represented in the orphanage.

Yunis (Selim Mostafa) giving Nada a gift (Menna Shalaby) in her birthday.

WHAT IS TE BEST WAY TO DEAL WITH THE CHILD IN THIS SITUATION?

"What must the mother do at this point is to be calm and let the change happen step by step. Not being pressured is very important for the child," Dr. Heba Sobhi pointed out.

For example, in the series, we saw Nada didn't force Yunis to go to the training in the new club. She did at first, but she realized quickly that this is not the right solution.

Dr. Heba explained to Majalla that the child should be told that he is adopted gradually depending on his age. The best scenario to do this is telling him what happened in a story that relates to his age. The goal here is that giving him the right to realize what is happening and match it with his expectations.

Children, when expecting something and finding out that this is not the truth, lose trust in people and this causes a horrific psychological trauma. And it is more complicated when the issue is related to their existence and identity!

Life consists of three dimensions, the past, the present and the future. We cannot live our present without our past, and we cannot expect our future without realizing our past and present!

The same with the adopted child, he mustn't cut off his relationship with the orphanage in which he grew up. He should be in contact with his friends there and those who raised him so that he is aware of what is happening, his past and his future.

"It is important before taking the step to read well about raising adopted children, attend workshops tackling the issue, for example, the adoption and incubation initiative in Egypt that provides psychological awareness workshops and group discussions in which previous experiences are shared," Dr. Heba Sobhi said.

Nada's journey with Yunis was not easy, so keep in mind that if you are not aware of the whole picture you may make it difficult for yourself and the child too!

"If the decision of adoption has already been taken, we must see that the option to return is not on the table because this will harm the child. We should introduce the full support and help," Dr. Mai Zahran confirmed.

When the content respects minds and presents life problems people fully interact with it, and this is what happened in “Leh Laa” serious, but the addition here is that the topic is filled with emotions. These emotions are very high when talking about children because, for us, they are unable to act and need help.

Drama makes a change in societies, but which is effective and beautiful is change which comes in such social and sensitive issues that touch us. Drama, when close to people and their life, becomes different. Art messages are the strongest among all ways of influencing, and when the message is sublime, people know, discuss and become aware!


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