In January 2019 the Egyptian Ministry of Social Solidarity released three family-planning commercials as part of its “Two Are Enough: Abu Shanab Campaign” aimed at tackling Egypt’s rapid population growth. The US-funded drive is part of a nationwide project to reduce the birthrate from 3.5 to 2.4 by 2030.1 Rural populations, where children are seen as additional labor on farms and a source of economic strength (Michaelson 2019), are the prime target of the five-year, $19 million campaign, which stars the Egyptian actor Akram Husni in the eponymous role of Abu Shanab.

The three commercials are comically constructed to induce laughter and hilarity in the audience. The first one opens with a peasant father encouraging his (male) children, who are played by grown-up actors, to try on various items of clothing at a local store, only...

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