Women Fight to Maintain Their Role in the Building of a New Egypt

Women Fight to Maintain Their Role in the Building of a New Egypt (good NY Times article)



“…Egypt’s popular revolution was the work of men and women, bringing together housewives and fruit sellers, businesswomen and students. At its height, roughly one quarter of the million protesters who poured into the square each day were women. Veiled and unveiled women shouted, fought and slept in the streets alongside men, upending traditional expectations of their behavior.

The challenge now, activists here say, is to make sure that women maintain their involvement as the nation lurches forward, so that their contribution to the revolution is not forgotten…”

“…There have been disappointments outside the square, too. The committee of eight legal experts appointed by the military authorities to revise the Constitution did not include a single woman or, according to Amal abd al-Hadi, a longtime feminist here, anyone with a gender-sensitive perspective.

As a result, one proposed revision states that the Egyptian president may not be married to a “non-Egyptian woman” — seemingly ruling out the possibility of a woman as president…”

“…A coalition including Nawal el-Saadawi, a leading feminist, is planning a million women’s march for Tuesday, with no set agenda other than to promote democracy. Ms. Diaa said that she planned to stay home now to give the new prime minister a chance to work and to help her children. But she said she would return to the streets if Mr. Sharaf did not quickly make democratic changes.

“I don’t see a difference between men and women,” she said, talking about her many days of protesting. “The only difference is that men are more able to take the sticks of the thugs. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a voice. I believe that I have a voice, so I can’t stay at home. I have a responsibility. I can be one of a million.”

Interested readers might also want to check out these three older posts:

1) Egyptian Women Protesting


2) Gender at the Egyptian Protests


3) Why We Need Women in War Zones


11 thoughts on “Women Fight to Maintain Their Role in the Building of a New Egypt

  1. Thanks for this important story!

    I suspect the worries are right about the presumptions behind forbidding the President from being married to a non-Egyptian woman. But I can’t help but notice that in the absence of same-sex marriage it would be rather easy for a woman President to satisfy this requirement.

  2. Excellent point Jender. It would be nice if everyone immediately saw the point right away. One step (toward steps toward progress) at a time, I guess.

  3. (grassroots) Egyptian feminism in action (check out both organizations!):

    Nazra for Feminist Studies

    Nazra for Feminist Studies

    Nazra aims at establishing and entrenching Women’s rights in Egypt and the Middle East through research of the factors of determining the situation of women, providing special interest to two factors which we consider the most important: legal codification and social variables. We believe it is necessary to work to institute legislations that are more supportive of Women’s rights, applying local, regional and international tools to enforce such legislative progress. We think that this legal struggle must be accompanied by a thorough societal debate on Women’s issues; otherwise we would be risking a gap between the law and society which can undermine the whole venture

    The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights


    ECWR’s work is based on the belief that women’s rights are an integral part of human rights and are key to any substantive progress towards building a democratic culture and development in Egypt and the Middle East region. Our programs help women to obtain their rights through legal channels, awareness raising, training, legal and family counseling, monitoring of rights violations inflicted on women, and empowering women to participate in political life through a variety of means, as an activist, voter and candidate

  4. Egypt’s revolution means nothing if its women are not free

    A mob of men attacking an International Women’s Day demo should not be allowed to happen in the new Egypt


    “A demonstration commemorating International Women’s Day was attacked on Tuesday afternoon in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. More than 200 men charged on the women – forcing some to the ground, dragging others out of the crowd, groping and sexually harassing them as police and military figures stood by and failed to act.

    It was a shocking wake-up call. Even in Tahrir Square, the symbol of Egypt’s newfound freedom, it seems that it’s going to take much more than a revolution to overhaul the deep-seated misogyny that some Egyptian men so freely and openly impose on the country’s female population….”

  5. Women Are Pushing for Justice; They Must Not Be Pushed Back


    by Navanethem (Navi) Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights



    “…Societies in which women are excluded, formally or informally, from public life, cannot be described as truly democratic, as the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women has warned time and again. Women must be able to shape the future of their countries by being involved in institutional reforms from the beginning. Women’s full participation is essential not only for their empowerment, but for the advancement of society as a whole.

    The euphoria in Egypt and in Tunisia was shared by men and women around the world. These are historic events, and hopefully the heralds of great and lasting change. Let us now work together to ensure that the momentum does not fade away with the euphoria.

    Let us ensure that women’s rights are at the foundation of these new beginnings, and let us be vigilant against any retrogression.

    Let us stand in solidarity with women in every corner of the world who are working for positive change in their families, their communities and in their countries.”

  6. Shirin Ebadi: who defines Islam?



    “My most important piece of advice to Egyptian women is “do not give way to a government that would force you to choose between your rights and Islam”. Do not let them put you in that bind. Governments that invoke the name of ‘Islam’ in their self-definition will face people with this dilemma and this false choice. They will say “either you are Muslim and accept our laws or you are not Muslim”. That is exactly the way the government has operated in Iran. When you face someone who comes from a very religious family with this question, she gets a bit hesitant. Therefore, we must not reach a point when a government can accord itself the right to pose this question. Getting to understand Islam well and encouraging women to learn different interpretations of Islam is important. So when governments tell women “this is Islam’, they will be well-equipped to counter their arguments.”

    An Interview With Nawal El Saadawi



    “…How will these protests and a new political order affect gender relations in Egypt?

    Well, it’s also a process. First you need economic independence, so you can divorce your husband if he treats you badly. Then it becomes like a virus, infecting other women. And then women start to organize and talk about it. You need collective power, and that is why we always organize and network. But this is why [former Egyptian first ladies] Suzanne Mubarak and Jehane Sadat banned our union, the Egyptian Women’s Union. Because organizing is power…”

    “…How did women get sidelined so fast after Mubarak left?

    We are furious. We participated in every part of the revolution, and then as soon as it ended we were completely isolated. The constitutional committees were all old men, so young people are also angry. But we re-established the Egyptian Women’s Union and we are organizing day and night. We are demanding at least 35 percent female participation in all committees to be formed to change the constitution, at every level, as well as a secular constitution, a secular family code and total equality before the law.

    Do you have advice for women in the West on how to advocate for women’s rights elsewhere, without allowing that issue of women’s rights to be instrumentalized?

    I always say we need global and local solidarity—what we call “glocal.” Women in the West can support us by fighting their own governments, because your governments are the ones that interfere in our life, by going and invading and colonizing other countries.

    Nobody can help anybody. Nobody can help us in Egypt—we did our revolution alone, we liberated ourselves alone. I don’t believe in charity or “helping.” I believe in the equal exchange of ideas, and networking…”

  7. Muslim Woman [Bothaina Kamel] Seeks Egyptian Presidency

    “…Her campaign for the presidency focuses on fighting the dual evils of poverty and corruption…”

    “…Amid the tensions, Ms. Kamel talked with residents, both Christians and Muslims, listening to their accounts and testimonials. Explanations abound on the reasons for the surge in the violence: sectarian conflicts are being engineered by counterrevolutionary forces to halt the gains of the revolution in their tracks; the military rulers are slow to react because they want to remain in charge of the country; the wider margin for expression has laid bare animosities cultivated by extremists, who thrive on the hopelessness and anger that poverty breeds…”

    “…She endorses a proposal that grants equal rights to Muslims and Christians in building houses of worship and in trying those who incite sectarianism and the assault on churches…”


    Interested readers might really want to check out comment 8, comment 3, and comment 7 above.

  8. Thanks for reporting this. Should it come as no surprise that virtually no other main, western news service is covering this story (at least not yet). Of course, lots of coverage in the middle-eastern press…
    It should be interesting to see what, if anything, comes of this. Maybe something promising (even if only one of those small steps I think you write about).

  9. The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR):

    Calls for Equal Representation of Women in the New Government

    Click to access press%20release%20-%20ecwr%20calls%20fair%20representation.pdf

    The cancellation of Women’s Quota without alternative legal methods that guarantee women’s political participation is pushing women back to the zero point

    Click to access Press%20Release-the%20Egyptian%20Coalition%20for%20civil%20Education%20and%20Women’s%20Participation-%20women’s%20quota.pdf

    Egypt women’s org calls for female governors


    Could This Woman Be Egypt’s Next President?

    Whether or not Bothaina Kamel wins, her candidacy could shatter misconceptions and traditional attitudes about the role of women


    No revolution for Egypt’s women

    “Helping drive the January revolution in Egypt were women: young, old, married, single, mothers, daughters and sisters. Their contribution to the cause could not be overstated. They were in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in droves, creating the change that had eluded Egypt for decades. It was not just a man’s world on the streets.

    Now, as Egypt looks to a new future, women are again being pushed aside in favor of the “politicians” (read here, men). There are no women on the constitutional committee; there were no women among the ten opposition leaders chosen to “negotiate” with the government during the revolution. It is a sad fact that Egypt must come to terms with in order to promote a new vision, and new society, that can be Egypt…”


    Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights


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