The Egyptian Women between the Wings of the Revolution and Stripping the Reality
Nehad Aboul Komsan
Chair of ECWR
ECWR Research Unit
Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice were the key words of the 25th of January 2011 Revolution, which was started by the Egyptian youth and later joined by the men and women from all layers of society and walks of life. The Egyptian women in particular amazed the world.
They used social media to spread the word and call people to join the revolution. They participated in protests, often assuming leadership positions despite often instable and dangerous situations. In the revolution’s squares, women’s attendance was overwhelming, where there were cases of women leading with men following. The women participated in the security of the public committees and volunteered in the field hospitals, expressing their deep dedication to restoring Egypt’s freedom and dignity. During January and February, the number of female martyrs reached 15.
The Egyptian women participated in the various marches in the consecutive waves of the Egyptian revolution, aimed at preserving the spirit of the revolution.
The women suffered great amount of violence but never lost their dedication to the concerns of this nation and hope for better future of the Egyptian people.
The revolution has the potential to break the cultural barriers by creating opportunities for the Egyptian women to change the traditional understanding of the gender roles that has seen them as passive observers rather than active participants and with that change the perception of the nation and the world.
The Egyptian revolution contributed to returning the civilized and humane image of the Muslim and Arab women in the world, aimed at breaking the stereotypical image of the crushed Muslim women who hid in black clothes (Abaya) behind a man with a white robe.
The Egyptian woman changed the image by herself on the top of list of the most successful women in the world, and honor that has been granted to only few women of the first world and only few women of the “a developing world” have ever been represented.
In the occasion of the International Women’s Day, the American magazine “NewsWeek” announced a list of 150 women form different countries in the world, described as “Women that moved the world”. An international conference was organized from the 10th to 12th of March, 2011 in order to honor these women. This list included four Egyptian women: Dr. Nawal El-Sa’adawy, the female activist, media professional Gamila Ismail, the female activist Salma Sa’aid ,who participated in succession of the 25th January, 2011 revolution and the female activist Dalia Zeyada.
On the occasion of the International Women’s Day, the British magazine “Gardian” ranked Dr. Nawal El-Sa’adawy as the 16th most important 100 female activist in the world. While the “Arabian Business” magazine placed Isra’a Abdelfatah, the female Egyptian activist of the 6th of April movement on the list of 100 most influential women in the Arab World.
The “Arabian Business” magazine recognized Dr. Dalia Mogahed, Egyptian decanted advisor to the U.S President Barack Obama on the Islamic affairs and Muslim community, as the third most influential Arab women in the world out 100.
The magazine explained the crucial importance of the Dr. Mogahed’s role in closing the gap between the West and the Muslims countries, by presenting their traditions and the concepts that important to their communities.
The EU parliament honored Asmaa Mahfouz and four other activists of the Arab spring with Sakharov prize, which yearly awarded for dedication to the freedom of thinking. It is considered to be one of the most important international prizes in the field of human rights.
The Egyptian women were presented on the cover pages in the newspapers and world magazine from the beginning of the year as the revolutionaries. Ironically, the Egyptian women once again the end of the year was marked with pictures of a young female’s protestor’s body being dragged naked on the ground, a photo that summed the grim reality that the Egyptian women live in.
Among the cover pages of the newspapers and magazines in the beginning of the year and their cover pages in its end, the Egyptian women suffered from the intentional exclusion as a systematic policy to the governments of the post-revolution, the revolution that carved the word “El- Tahrir Square” in all world languages by the Arab words as a synonyms to “the freedom, justice, and equality”.
Is it comes into the Egyptian women’ mind that her situation after revolution will contrary to what she came out of it?!
Is El-Tahrir Square will remain a synonym to “the freedom, justice, and equality”?!
Or the revolution will eat /sacrifice its children and the forefront of them the women?!
In 2011, the Egyptian women has excluded intentionally not only in the political scene, but from the Egyptian scene in general, The exclusion of women from the leadership positions, was confined to the ministries of the revolution on a small number of women, the two ministries of Dr. Essam Sharaf included one woman in each, while the Ministry of National Salvation headed by Dr. Kamal el Ganzory included three women.
The women excluded from the important positions like the governor and the constitution amendments committee even the discussion on the amendments of the law of parliament and Shura council , the law of dividing the constituencies which attended by not exceeded the fingers of one hand within tens of men, who is their decision was disappointing, for example the law of dividing the consequences has greatly expanded in the constituencies which causing a great difficulty in the election propaganda, and in the Law of parliament and Shura council canceled the 64 sites which was for women and provided that the list has to included at least one women on each list, but the new law didn’t specify the place of women on the lists; which led to most of the political forces to put women in a late position on their lists, So the successful didn’t exceed the number of fingers of the hand.
While the female activists received no small share of the violations of their human rights and their rights in freedom of participate and express their opinion; also Egypt has witnessed for the first time from the military to detect the virginity of the female activists as well as the assault and torture, assignment to military trials and the civil and military Investigations.
This exclusion was accompanied by a hatred campaign to change the Personal Status Code which some of its articles have equitable for the Egyptian women, in addition to the claims of the fundamentalist currents, that rose rapidly after the revolution, demanding the return of women to the home and reduce their participation in the society. These claims rose up in the same time of ignoring and ignorance that the return of women to their houses will cause of 32 of Egyptian families which is household by women will day of starvation and setback to the Egyptian economy whereas women represent 23.2% of the official workforce and 70% of the worksorce of the marginal sector.
The ECWR’s report of The 2011 Egyptian Women’s Status addressed the different levels of women’s situation as follows:
FIRSTLY: ON THE POLITICAL AND DECISION MAKING LEVEL:
Recurrent incidents have confirmed that political intention of decision makers in Egypt tend to push women aside from leading positions. Reasons for that, in most cases are either fragile or non existing. After officials had announced that one female would be included among newly appointed male governorates, it did not happen. Instead officials justified that as of the current security vacuum in the country, women are allegedly unable to go down to the street to solve people’s problems at least for the time being. Therefore, women are bearing the consequences of the security breakdown. So all the governments that were formed in the aftermath of the revolution included only a limited number of female officials as Dr. Isam Sharaf’s government included only one female minister whereas the Ganzury’s government included three, all of them are among traditional ministers.
The Constitutional Amendments Committee has also excluded all women, only one woman was among many wise people committees which were formed from Tahreer square activists during the early days of the January 25th revolution. The constitutional amendments of Article no. 75 of the constitution has raised controversy and rejection as it stipulates that candidates should not be married to a foreign woman which means a clear relegation of the Egyptian woman. This is contradictory with article no.40 which stipulates that men and women are equal and there is no distinction based on sex, religion, language or faith.
As for enhancing women’s existence in legislative councils, it has been completely wasted. The women’s quota law, which allocated 64 seats in the parliament for women has been annulled, although the quota law for workers and peasants have been retained. However, the law for modifying provisions of law no. 38 and law no. 120 pertaining to the People’s Assembly and the Shura council stipulates that each list should include a female candidate at least. The law does not specify the female candidate’s position in the list, which gives parties the freedom to set her wherever they want and that means the chance for her to win is very slim in case she is put at the bottom of the list. This is proved by the results of the parliamentary elections so far in which the number of women who won seats at the People’s Assembly is very few.
The Consultative Council which has been formed to deal with crises facing the country and assist the Supreme Council for Armed Forces (SCAF) in dealing with many issues regarding national security and public opinion , also includes a very few number of women. Only 3 women ( Dr. Manar Mohamed Al-Shurbagy , Dr. Nadia Mahmoud Mostafa and Dr. Nivin Abdelmonem Mis’id ). The three women are among 30 members which included parties heads, politicians, activists and presidential hopefuls.
SECOND: WOMAN AND THE FIRST PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS AFTER THE REVOLUTION:
Despite all the hardships that have been facing the Egyptian woman as a candidate, such as wide range electoral directorates, parties inclination to leave out women candidates as usual, setting woman at the bottom of lists which makes her chances to win are very slim and the annulling of the quota law, the Egyptian woman took part in the electoral battle.
As for the total number of female candidates for the current people’s Assembly elections for the year 2011 for the three stages as follows: 984 female candidates out of 8415 candidates, 351 female candidates out of 4847 candidates running for individual seats . and 633 female candidates for parties lists out of 3566 candidates.
Below is a table showing numbers and percentage of women candidates in the three stages nationwide:
Governorate Total of male Candidates & female candidates Total Number of female candidates in each round The percentage of women’s nomination Total of the candidates and female candidates of the Individual system Total of the female candidates on the individual system Women’s nomination percentage on the individual system Total of the candidates and female candidates of the Party-List system Total of the candidates and female candidates of the Party-List system Women’s nomination percentage on the Party-List system
1st Round 1547 376 24.3% 1055 164 15.5% 492 212 43%
2nd Round 3813 328 8.6% 2241 107 4.7% 1572 221 14%
3rd Round 2753 280 10% 1551 80 5.1% 1202 200 16.6%
Total 8113 984 12.1% 4847 351 7.2% 3266 633 11.2%
The first stage results show three women wining which represents 1.4%, two women belong to the Wafd party’s list; Margret Azar in the second directorate in Cairo governorate and Hanan Abuelgheit in Damietta governorate. The third one is Sana Alsaied, the candidate of the Egyptian block for the second directorate in Asyut governorate.
In the second stage of the people’s Assembly elections, three women candidates won, all of them belong to the parties’ lists. The three women are Azza Mohamed Ibrahim Algarf, the candidate of the Freedom and Justice party for Giza governorate, Magda Alnuayshi, the Wafd party list candidate for Ismailiya governorate and Rida Abdallah, the Freedom and Justice party candidate for the first directorate in Alsharqiya governorate. Therefore, the percentage of women in the People’s Assembly out of the 498 members of the People’s Assembly is now 1% of the total members which shows the Egyptian women’s retreat in parliamentary representation at least compared to the last parliament of 2010 in which women represented 12.8% according to the International Parliamentary Union.
THIRD: WOMAN IN POST-REVOLUTION POLITICAL PARTIES:
Although, political parties have reached up to 50 new parties, yet the position of women in such parties is not very different compared to her position before the revolution. Most of the parties are not paying much attention to regulations that combat segregation of women. With the possible exception of one party, all the parties are not taking the women issue as part of their party essential components. This issue is surveyed as follows:
Both the Egyptian Democratic Social Party and the Reformation And Development Party do set woman as part of their programs including economic, social and political reforms.
Three parties, so called parties with Islamic background, are giving much attention to woman’s status pertaining to domestic, marital and divorce issues. Namely ( Alnur Party, the Freedom and Justice Party and the Reformation and Renaissance Party) are also focusing on discrimination between men and women in social and human roles. Although the three parties propose programs that put man and woman on equal basis, they still put barriers between them in social and human roles without clarification of such roles.
Only one party ( Egypt the Revolution) has an integrated data base about the number of women in the Supreme Board, committees and the co-founder members.
There is no quantitative nor qualitative indications to measure the percentage of women membership in parties nor women occupancy of leading positions in parties.
There is no organization of woman secretariats in the parties.
Only one party, Al’adl ( Justice) party has launched an organization for woman just like the youth organization which also belongs to the party.
Programs of under-construction parties:
Under-construction parties are not very different from the already-established parties in regard to handling woman issues, there could be even less interest as follows:
Handling woman issues from a domestic prospective.
Using the same terms (non-discrimination between men and women) without setting executive policy or mechanism.
Unawareness of how important it is for party programs to handle woman issues.
Parties do not involve civil society organizations that are concerned with woman issues, to help them getting mechanisms or solutions for women cases in their programs.
After the revolution, what is so called “women parties” were founded and headed by females. Also, the first Egyptian party to focus mainly on Egyptian women and their issues was established. This is noticed as follows:
Writer and researcher Reem Abu Eid announced the establishment of her new party ” the New Woman Party ”
Lawyer and political activist Hala Tubar announced the establishment of ” Freedom and Affiliation Party”
Nermien Mohamed Abdelrahman established and chaired “the Egyptian Right” Party Establishment.
A number of female political activists together with some youth established ” Republican Youth of Egypt” party, chaired by Mushira Ghali, one of the women leaders.
Meanwhile, the existence of the Egyptian woman is still absent and the researcher for news about Egyptian women in parties can hardly find any. Actually it is not any different from the previous relegation of women.
FORTH: WOMAN IN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES’ PROGRAMS:
The concern about woman in the programs of the presidential hopefuls is not much. Dr. Ayman Nur, a presidential hopeful turned out to be the only candidate who paid concern for woman and dedicated part of his electoral programs for her. However Hazim Salah Abu Isma’il has got a program for woman that could bring her back to the medieval ages. Abu Isma’il, who calls for women to stay at home implies in his program that woman’s work is behind all the existing deviations in the world. Chancellor Hisham Elbastawisy believes in women’s right in sufficient participation in all work and education fields, whereas Amr Musa has not set a specific program nor a vision for women except he welcomes establishing parties for women. The real surprise is that woman has no share in the programs of the other candidates such as Dr. Mohamed Albaradie, Hamdeen Sabbahi, Ahmad Algwayli and Lt. General Magdi Hattata. Through his announcements, Mohamed Salim Alawa, a prominent presidential hopeful only spoke of opinions that say that women should be part of societal contribution by taking care of house and domestic issues and spoke also of other opinions which think that the former opinion is a retroaction. However Buthayna Kamel has rejected relegating women after the revolution and confirmed that she is running for president to reinforce women’s right to run for president, especially after it has become very clear that women were relegated as governor or minister within Sharaf’s government that had only one female minister.
Woman as a Presidential Candidate:
A number of women announced their intention to run for the coming presidential elections, which raised a storm of criticism on the pretext that women are ineligible to be a president. This emphasizes that there is an anti-woman societal culture that is against women taking any leading positions as the reason here is not qualification but an inclination to degrade women, notwithstanding some female candidates have a considerable political and human rights struggle history besides their contribution to the January 25th revolution. The most prominent female candidate is the media figure and political activist Buthayna Kamel, in addition to literary writer Anaselwugud Ilaywah, the human rights activist Dalia Ziyada, the educational chairwoman Azza Kamel and the media figure Nagwa Abu Elnaga.
FIFTH: WOMAN AND RELIGIOUS TRENDS:
Islamic trends represented in the Salafists and the Muslim brotherhood, are still minimizing the role of woman in society by limiting her role to a traditional stereotype of just bringing up kids which is far from the real meaning of citizenship. In the first conference for sisters in the Muslim brotherhood, Dr. Mohamed Badie, the Supreme Guide of the group specified the role of sisters to be ” your role is to spread values and idealism besides bringing up kids according to such values, also to reinforce Islamic values system in the souls and minds of our kids- this is your top role in the current stage “.
This of course keeps women away from taking part in all aspects of societal life where she should be treated on equal basis as men. Nevertheless, female candidates in electoral lists for religious parties, namely Alnur party, was only a complementary matter or as one Salafist preacher called it ” an emergent candidacy “. So they put women at the bottom of their lists which made their chances to win are very slim, besides they replaced women’s pictures with a rose. On the social level, the sweeping victory that Islamists achieved in Egypt after Jan. 25th caused a state of intimidation to Egyptian women, especially after a number of assault cases against women, for example, about 350 Salafist men broke into a lady’s house in Minufiya governorate and expelled her out of the house by force on the claim that she used to commit adultery inside the house. They also threatened non-veiled women and spread demands to separation between males and females in universities besides a demand to allow Salafist preachers to deliver lectures in universities and meanwhile separate males from females by force or to prohibit females from attending such lectures altogether.
SIXTH: WOMAN’S STATUS ON THE SOCIAL LEVEL ” A CAMPAIGN TO CHANGE THE PERSONAL STATUS LAW”:
After the Jan. 25th revolution, woman faced a fierce attack represented in a demand to change the personal status law, visitation & guardianship law as well as the legal separation law, claiming that such laws are remnants from the former first lady ” Suzan Mubarak” and that they have corrupted Egyptian families and increased divorce rates. This is an attempt to demolish the Egyptian woman’s rights for which she has been fighting for long years. Moreover, organized media campaigns supported that attack; a number of Egyptian husbands who are harmed by the personal status law launched pages on Facebook demanding a change of the law, many people organized marches and sit ins in front of Alazhar, the Islamic Research Center and in front of the Prime Minister’s house. Eventually the law of visitation and guardianship was kept at the last amendment of the year 2007 amid silence of the Supreme Council for Armed Forces ( SCAF) and Dr. Sharaf’s government which did not show any sign to reinforce that woman’s right is part and parcel of Human Rights. However, members of the Islamic Research Center decided, under pressure, to give the father the right of educational custody on equal basis with the mother, and in case of any dispute on sending the kid to a private school, if the father can not afford to cover the fees, and in case the mother shows willingness to pay the extra fees, then the father should not refuse to send the kid to that private school unless the kid would be harmed religiously or morally or if the school is very far from his house. The judge is free to take whatever decision that is in the kid’s favor.
On the other hand and positively, law no. 154 of the year 2004 has been put into effective. It gives children of an Egyptian woman to have the mother’s nationality; major general Mansur Alesawy (former interior minister) decided to give Egyptian citizenship to the children of Egyptian women who are married to Palestinian men.
SEVENTH: VIOLENCE AGAINST FEMALE ACTIVISTS AFTER THE REVOLUTION:
The situation of the Egyptian woman after the revolution is not any better than before. While the world is appreciating and honoring Egyptian woman for her contribution to the change and freedom, she is being physically and morally attacked. Female activists are being assassinated physically and psychologically as the Egyptian Observatory noted as follows:
On March 8th, women and female activists belonging to women organizations were molested and harassed in Tahreer Aquare while they were organizing a set in on the occasion of celebrating the International Woman’s Day. They were severely attacked by some people who called upon them to go back home.
On March 9th, the army forces dispersed the demonstrators in Tahreer Square by force, detained some females and some males and tortured females brutally and against Human rights principles; Some female activists were undressed, nakedly filmed and obliged to submit to virginity test. Human Rights organizations, including the Egyptian Center for Woman’s Rights consolidated with those activists.
During the second phase of the revolution in November 2011, many female peaceful demonstrators were brutally beaten, dragged through streets and detained. Three female medical doctors in addition to both the presidential hopeful and political activist Buthayna Kamel and her daughter were also detained. In her testimony of what happened, the daughter said that she was physically harassed by some security forces during apprehension. Ranya Fu’ad, a medical doctor was killed while she was carrying medications for injured people. Safa’ Mohamed, another activists was brutally beaten and left with two broken wrests. Also Muna Altahawy, a writer and political activist was harassed and tortured by police forces, according to her testimony, while she was detained she was left with two broken arms and without any medical care for 12 hours. Jihan Najim, a film director was also detained, whereas many women decided to make a feminine human shield at front lines in order to defuse the clashes between peaceful demonstrators and the security forces until the of the demonstration.
Security forces attacked martyrs’ families while they were organizing a protest at Albaloon Theater to commemorate their lost loved ones. At that time trying the martyrs’ murderers had not yet started. In addition, during a protest organized by the martyrs’ families and protesters against a police officer who slapped a martyr’s mother on her face, security forces and the protestors threw stones on each other in Tahreer Square.
During the Cabinet headquarter incidents, Egyptian young ladies were dragged through streets and undressed by military police. Nine other girls were kidnapped from Shura council, their names are : Hind Nafi’ Badawy, Abeer Sa’id Mustafa, Samar Mohamed Sa’d Abu Elma’aty, Sara Ali Mohamed Alsayed, Yusra Salah Ibayd Mitwally, Rasha Khalid Gad Abdelmawud, Marwa Sayid Sayif Eldin, Ni’ma Ali Sa’id Mussalim and Hadeer Faruq Abdelaziz “. they were all brutally beaten, harassed and tortured, they were even threatened to be rapped before they were referred to the general prosecution department to be tried for assaulting ” innocent” soldiers and destroying public premises.
EIGHTH: VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMAN AT WORK:
From relegating woman to downsizing her right at work. The Ministry of Justice has initially approved a request for modifying the regulation of authorized marriage registrars. Articles that do not allow woman to be marriage officiant (marriage registrar )are still under research, nevertheless it is a kind of discrimination against woman which is a violation to the legal constitutional declaration.
Committees of Opportunities Equality have been frozen in all Ministries. Such committees were concerned with investigating discrimination cases against woman at work and in position holding. Thus chances have become widely available for practicing relegation and pressure against female workers in Egypt.
NINTH: SECURITY ABSENCE PROBLEMS AND THEIR EFFECT ON VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMAN, ” DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CRIMES, HARASSMENT, RAPE AND HONOR CRIMES”:
Egyptian streets are still suffering from an evident security collapse which has led to an increase of crimes pertaining to violence against woman, especially sexual harassment and rape crimes. Also, domestic violence, especially marital crimes as well as honor crimes are still reported.
A recent field study, conducted by Alexandria Center for Woman Health & Development has revealed that 75% of women have been exposed to marital violence, 41% of women have been exposed to physical violence by other people other than the husband. However, 43% of the sample proved that the violence was a result of wrong religious conceptions such as ” women are less reasonable and less religious “, or “husbands’ are allowed to punish their wives”.
39% of the research sample confirm that the reason behind the spread of violence against woman is dominant cultural heritages and patriarchal society where woman is underestimated while man is given right to domineer, control and commit violence against her. However 15% of the sample confirmed that the reason behind the violence is because of deficiency in legal articles and legislations that are supposed to protect women.
A report released by Plan International Organization ” Li’anny Fatah or Because I am a Girl”, revealed that although backing woman was on top of Egyptian priorities during the last decade thanks to legislative changes and more effective initiations, yet girls and ladies are still facing many challenges regarding economic and work opportunities as well as some traditional practices such as violence which return back negatively on them. The report also indicated that the rates of females’ participation in work in Egypt is still down as it only reaches up to 18.5%. It also confirmed that woman status cannot be improved without a more positive participation by men in women’s lives; fathers, brothers and husbands can contribute with an essential role in achieving real equality between the two sexes. Speaking about illiteracy, in 2009 there were 16 million illiterate women in Egypt which means 70% of the total number of illiterate people in the country.
In an attempt to face rape crimes that have been increasingly committed, the Supreme Council for Armed Forces issued a law to amend some provisions of the penal law in order to make the punishment on rape crimes more severe.
Meanwhile, sexual harassment crimes have increased due to the security breakdown and there has been a number of attempts on different levels to face such crimes; a new youth campaign launched on Facebook by a number of activists in Alexandria, the campaign’s title is ” Fellow Young men Campaign.. A Safe Feast for Girls of Alexandria”
TENTH: HUMAN TRAFFICKING
The US State Department Annual Report on “Human Trafficking” revealed that there are between 200 thousands to one million” street children” in Egypt. Street children, males and females face sex trafficking and forced begging run by some local gangs, as the report stated. Rich gulf men come to Egypt to buy one-season- stand wife or what is so called “summer marriage” which uses under age girls, sometimes with the consent of their parents.
For facing that phenomenon, Prime Minister Dr. Isam Sharaf announced the forth annual report of the National Coordinating Committee For Combating And Preventing Human Trafficking. Also the National Council for Motherhood and Childhood announced the first Regional Shelter for rehabilitating girls and women victims of human trafficking in Cairo.
ELEVENTH: CONTINUOUS USE OF WOMAN AS A SPARK FOR SECTARIAN CONFLICTS:
As a continuous use of woman as a fuel to spark sectarian conflicts, Salafists’ demonstrations continued demanding the church to release Camilia Shihata. Some noted that excessive interest over that issue and continuous demonstrations are but a way to attract people’s attention away from the democratic change process witnessed by the country. Then the case of Abeer Fakhry, who converted to Islam and her case caused clashes between Muslims and Coptic Christians in Imbaba neighborhood after tens of local Muslims gathered in front of a church and demanded a release of Abeer who was thought to be hijacked inside the church.
TWELFTH: NON-GOVERNMENTAL AND WOMEN ORGANIZATIONS’ ROLES IN SUPPORTING WOMAN AFTER THE REVOLUTION:
In the wake of the recurrent incidents, the Supreme Council for Armed Forces and the government deliberately dropped out the Egyptian woman file. Although the National Council for Human Rights was restructured as a national mechanism for human rights, reconstructing the National Council for Woman was neglected. Nevertheless, it is considered the national mechanism that works for improving and protecting woman’s rights. In fact, Dr. Farkhanda Hasan, General Secretary of the National Council for Woman was renewed for although she was summoned for investigation on charges of illegal profiting. Hasan is the general secretary of Woman Committee at the dissolved National Democratic Party. This is a question mark about the Supreme Council For Armed Forces and the successive governments after the revolution regarding their stance about the Egyptian woman who contributed to the revolution and paid precious prices for it.
In an attempt by the former PM Isam Sharaf to calm down strong demands submitted by women organizations to restructure the National Council of Woman to reflect the image of the Egyptian woman and not to just reflect what is so called ” followers of the former first lady- meaning Suzan Mubarak” , instead, the council should be supporting woman against the fierce attacks that were organized after the revolution. Ms. Nihad Abuelqumsan, chairwomen of the Egyptian Center for Woman’s Rights was assigned to discuss issues with the civil society in order to restructure the council. Consequently, discussions have been conducted with 80 NGOs which represented all Egyptian governorates geographically besides all NGOs working levels qualitatively. Conferences were held with 12 coalitions concerned with woman issues in addition to work session with 20 high ranking female experts.
The plan was submitted to the former PM who ordered for a discussion in an extended meeting with official and NGOs figures. the meeting was attended by a number of ministers and consultants at the council in addition to representatives of legal authorities, Alazhar institution, the Religious Edicts House, intellectuals and representatives of civil society. The discussion was meant to be completed and concluded with a decision, but pressures were made by official and non-official institutions behind the scenes just to hold the situation as worse as it was. Therefore, the council remained unable not only to defend the Egyptian woman, but even unable to protect itself, it has become even unable to fix a sign to show its location after it was burned down during the revolution.
The organizations concerned with woman’s rights played several roles:
The first role: observation and follow up:
Women organizations provided an important role in observing violations against rebels and especially women. They have worked as pressuring circle on authorities locally and on international community organizations as well as through releasing several press releases that condemn the security practices against peaceful demonstrators and how forces curbed rebels and fired live bullets and killed hundreds of people. This led the International Amnesty and the United Nations to observe human rights violations against woman. Also many organizations concerned with woman issues released many press statements.
On April 8th, on the World Woman’s Day, many organizations and female activists organized a celebration march honoring martyrs’ mothers. A number of human rights centers took part in the march including the Egyptian Center for Woman’s Rights. A considerable number of girls and women as well as a number of pro- woman’s rights men joined the march.
The female demonstrators distributed flyers in the name of the million people march showing demands which included that woman should take part in forming the constitutional, legal and political future of Egypt. The demands also requested a new constitution to respect female citizens, enforce equality and eliminate all forms of discrimination. They also demanded changing many legal systems including the personal status law providing that it should include complete equality, all rights and not to stick the woman’s natal role on top of all her other roles in life. They also called for passing severe punishments to eliminate all forms of violence against woman indoors and outdoors. However, during that march, a mass sexual harassment was committed against women by what is so called thug gangs or bully men,
Official authorities, not only ignored the incident, but also attacked female activists while they were demonstrating in Tahree Square on March 9th. Female activists were humiliatingly abused by military police who forced them to submit to a virginity test. The tests were conducted by medical doctors belonging to the army.
Civil society and especially pro-woman organizations have been always playing a vital role in observing violations committed against woman on official, political and social levels. They have been also releasing statements which represented women’s truth-uncovering voice.
THE SECOND ROLE: PROVIDING DIRECT TECHNICAL AND LEGAL SUPPORT:
Before the revolution, many civil organizations contributed by training youth on peaceful demonstrating and how to face up to security forces. Also, many women leaders contributed by taking to Tahreer Square in every demonstrations. They have been also defending demonstrators by all means, a matter that put them under security pressure so they have been detained.
Many female activists were threatened to be killed; they received threatening text messages from anonymous sources. They also received threatening letter from extremist groups.
The third role: forming pressuring groups:-
Many seminars and conferences on the role of woman in the Jan.25th revolution were organized. Also the Alliance for Arab Woman organized a conference under the title “women as contributors to the revolution”.
The ECWR also held meetings in 19 governorates, on the constitutional amendments from a women perspective. It also held consultative sessions with several human rights and women organizations as well as female experts in different fields. The sessions aimed at finding a strong mechanism for the Egyptian woman and reinforce the civil society’s vision on finding a mechanism for the Egyptian woman.
Other groups of women and women organizations organized several group activities such as forming movements, coalitions and alliances with other organizations:-
1- the Egyptian Alliance for Woman’s Participation:
It was formed immediately after the revolution and it includes 454 human rights and women societies and organizations to work on supporting women’s participation in decision making and involving them in public life. It is also concerned with maintaining women’s gains and resisting conservative trends that tend to eliminate women’s role. The Alliance announced it’s reaction to all measures that were taken after the revolution through corresponding with the Prime Minister and the SCAF. The corresponding included women’s demands and a proposal of participating in the coming stage as well as restructuring the National Council for Woman.
2- Alliance of Egyptian Women’s Organizations
It includes 11 women and developmental societies and it was submitted to the Prime Minister through an opened message. The Alliance set general principles and essential demands for Egyptian Woman in accordance with the trio- emblem of the revolution” freedom…dignity…and social justice”
3-Coalition of Revolution Women:
It was formed by a group of women with diverse political and human rights backgrounds in addition to women rights organizations and a group of independent persons who believe in the case and defend it. The aim of the coalition is to gather women powers, support women demands and form an effective pressuring power.
4- A Free Egyptian Movement:
A group of young female political activists started working immediately before the parliamentary elections of 2010 as they rejected the former regime’s way of applying the quota system. Later they became leaders of the Egyptian revolution as they took part in planning and organizing all works related to the revolution. Some of them were injured in confrontations with the security forces. The Movement aims at working on raising women’s awareness and supporting female candidates, as well as building serious women cadres to get involved in political institutions such as local councils and the parliament. It also aims at representing a pressuring power on decision makers to achieve equality and justice in society.
5- Together Movement (Sawa)
It is formed by a group of young females who are volunteering in public works. Their experience is theoretical as it is driven from their excellent education. They took part in organizing the Egyptian woman million people demonstration on March 8th and many of them were harassed which severely shocked them, but yet it turned them into fierce defenders of women’s rights. Also they have organized an online team combating the fierce attack against woman in an attempt to break the hostile wave against women and eliminate the efforts showing that the Egyptian public opinion is against woman’s participation. They are currently working on developing their work so that they can represent a pressuring power.
6- Lawyers Defending Family Laws:
A front including a hundred female and male lawyers, it was formed after the revolution to discuss the attacks against the amendments made to laws before the revolution. The front is also against the obsessive linking between such laws and politics which aims at eliminating woman’s rights. However, the front is working on creating a public opinion to support woman’s rights as part of Human Rights among lawyers and legislators. It also provides specialized studies on constitution and legislations that have to do with the electoral period from a feminine perspective. The tasks also include facing up to any legislative intervention that is irrelevant to the transitional period, especially the personal status law.
7- Alliance of Egyptian Woman:
Is a group of nine women organizations from Cairo and other governorates aiming at supporting woman’s rights in taking part in decision making. It also supports decentralizing women activities and raising women’s voices with all their geographic affiliations. The Alliance also supports women from outside the capital to take part in decision making, raising voices of women from different governorates and forming a pressuring power to defend rights of marginalized women.
Alahram newspaper, Elmasry Elyoum, Roz Alyousef, Nahdet Masr, Altahreer, Alwafd, Nus Eldoniya magazine, Hawa’ Magazine”
For more information on The report of The Status of Egyptian Women in 2011, please visit our website
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