Women in Egypt claim their rights
Women’s organisations in Egypt have mobilized in the aftermath of the revolution that resulted in President Mubarak’s resignation on February 11. A national Committee is currently drawing up proposals for a new constitution for the country and there are no women included in the Committee. According to Mouzn Hassan from the organization Nazra for Feminist Studies in Cairo, there is also no gender awareness or understanding of the needs of gender equality among the Committee members.
– We do not require that there be women in the Committe but they must at least see the need to increase gender equality in the country and women’s participation in politics, she says.
The Committees draft constitution states that the President must be married to a woman of Egyptian nationality. This means in practice that the president must be a man. The Egyptian women’s movement is protesting against the draft and 117 organizations have converged around a protest letter. In April, there will be a referendum on the Constitution.
– We in the women’s movement must now mobilize at the grassroots level and among political groups to increase women’s participation in society and politics. We have gained much strength during the revolution and we will demonstrate that now. Young and older feminists from different groups are more united than we were before, says Mouzn Hassan.
Mouzn Hassan points out that the revolution only lasted 18 days and that Egypt is still far from being an equal society. But the women have advanced. Since many men have been injured, women have become heads of families. Women participated fully on the Tahrir square and in all demonstrations during the revolution and this is something that ordinary people noticed. A contributing factor to the women participating on equal terms with men was that there was much less sexual harassment than usual so that the women felt confident to go out.
– The most important thing was that women in the revolution ceased to be afraid of harassment. It is the fear that has kept us at home. We must continue claiming the streets. Everybody in the country has now with their own eyes seen that women can participate and be active, says Mouzn Hassan.
There are several indications that the Egyptian women’s movement has stronger support among ordinary people now than before says Mouzn Hassan.
– It is no longer a huge gap between us, activists and ordinary people. I have received so many spontaneous comments from people in the streets for what we did during the revolution. We are preparing a march for women’s rights on March 8 and many have said they will join us, also men. Moreover, various political groups picked up several of our demands to improve women’s rights, she says.
Currently it is the military who runs the country. This is a special situation according to Mouzn Hassan.
– We will not turn not to the military with our political demands because it would be to give them legitimacy. We do not want them to stay in power. But I think we will be able to mobilize both ordinary people and political activists in order to increase women’s participation and to strengthen women’s rights. This is a historic time to get women’s issues on the agenda, she says.
Updated in: 2011-03-04