What Women Want in New Egypt

Over the past weeks we have seen mass protests by people across all segments of society calling for political change and reform, in hope that this change would reflect on economical and social issues in the future. As the days progressed we saw workers striking and protesting for their rights, journalists protesting for free and honest media, artists and film makers against censorship, people with disabilities protesting for an inclusive society and infrastructure, and many others according to their fields or backgrounds. Women are 50% of the society, and they face marginalization, unfairness politically, socially and under Egyptian law. It’s about time we do something about it. Dr. Nawal El Saadawi, long time acivist psychologist and especially concerned with women’s rights said “The cause to libirate women [in Egypt] who are half the population, is not separated from liberating the nation” .

That is why next Tuesday, to celebrate the International Day for Women, everyone in Egypt who believes women should be equal members of society on every level, need to take the streets. A group of women’s rights activists are organising a “Million Women March” in Tahrir at 3 pm.

My favourite slogan from the event on Facebook is: “I have a mother and father, I want a female or male president”.

In Egypt, no one can deny that women are not treated equally in society. That includes on a legal, political and most importantly cultural level. Here is a few main issues women face, not all issues I might add, that I would like to highlight that should be worked on in the new Egypt.

Politically:

  • We were left out in the constitutional revision committee
  • The clause on the Egyptian president’s origin assumes that the Egyptian president needs to be a man
  • Women’s quota is not helping women find seats but rather limiting them
  • Women always have minimal representation in the cabinet

Socially/Culturally:

  • A large percentage of women suffer domestic violence and never report it
  • Female Genital Mutilation is practices heavily in Egypt even though it is no longer legal
  • 85% of Egyptian women suffer sexual harassment in big cities
  • A woman’s role in society is often confined to being a wife and mother

Legally:

  • Sharia law discriminates against women in both inheritance and divorce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tunisia might have started this wave of revolutions in the Arab world, but we took it to the next level as a global movement. Our country has a responsibility now, towards the Arab world, and the whole world, to show that revolutions can succeed and bring about real change, and active participation of all members of society. Gender is a factor. We need to be the model on how women are just as important to men on all levels of society, as we’ve seen, the snowball effect in the region is unreal.

So join the movement on Tuesday, which is a continuation of the revolution that called for social justice and real change. Not just on a political level, but a cultural one as well. It not only aims to call on the government to take concrete actions, but on our collective society to change their perspective on a woman’s role in society. It’s not a march by women, it is for women, by women and men.

The Future: Arab Revolutions and Arab Unity

The domino effect

Ever since Tunisia’s uprising started, we’ve seen many across the Arab world. Egypt followed Tunisia’s uprising on January 25th, and 18 days later successfully toppled the thirty year dictator Hosni Mubarak. During the Egyptian uprising we’ve seen similar ones in Jordan, successfully removing their government, Yemen, where the struggles continues till now. The day after Mubarak stepped down we saw uprisings in Algeria, Bahrain and Libya. Later we saw uprisings in Iraq, Iran and even reaching China and Vietnam. All these uprisings continue to achieve goals and demands the people are making to their governments, and will hopefully lead to these countries being run by their people in a democratic fashion. Democracy as a concept is often precieved as a western invention, but actually, ruling one’s self through representatives and elections has been done across the centuries and it ensures decision making is done by a majority and not a few ruling the destinies of millions.

Agree with his policies or not, Ex-Egyptian President Gamal Abdelnasser, called for a unified Arab rule since the 1950s. Based on Social equality and sovereignty. His vision never saw light, and unfortunately was toppled by two Egyptian rulers, Sadat and Mubarak, who had different agendas of allying Egypt with the west. We have been witnessing similar examples of power trips, selfish acts and greed across the leaders of the Arab world. This lead to an Arab population that was oppressed, suffocated and with the majority of their populations living in dire conditions and struggling to put food on the table.

Below is a video of the Egyptian Poet Hesham El Gakh in the ‘Prince of Poets’ Competition that gathers poets from across the Arab world. In this poem he preforms in one of the early rounds of the competitions he discusses how the people of the Arab world are united, and how our leaders are separating us using football clashes, religion and cultural differences. He talks about how we are all one, and how we all belong and own all of the Arab world. (Sorry, there was no translation of the poem available for non Arabic speakers, But the goal of the poem is above)

 

What we are seeing happening across the Arab world from uprisings and revolutions are the Arab people, fueled by decades of anger, hurt, betrayal, hunger and a vision for a better future for all the Arab world, their individual countries included. Unity means strength, prosperity and independence.  For centuries the Arab people have suffered western imperialism, and when we got rid of that, we suffered western cultural and economical imperialism facilitated by our very own leaders.

Now is the time of change for all the Arab world. One by one we are toppling our oppressive leaders and regimes. I believe the next months will show the world many uprisings and revolution across the Arab world. 2011 only started less than three months ago and we’ve seen two so far successful revolutions and almost a dozen uprisings that will hopefully lead to revolutions.

Below is an image I got off of my good friend Ali Azmy’s blog, showing a visual representation of Arab revolutions and uprisings:

Revolutions and uprisings in the Arab World

The Arab people are united, and once we are the decision makers in our countries, we will unite, it is inevitable. And that will completely change the world as we know it today. And if we look at the bigger picture, if the Arab world unites, then this would mean no borders, sharing of resources and open relationships with the countries around. It will mean there could be a new power in the world, that emerged after years of living in oppression. If this union proves to be strong, then maybe we are one step closer to having a world where we are world citizens. It has already started. To close this blog post, you can find below a video my friend Tarek Shalaby made about his trip with a few Egyptian friends and a British friend to Libya during the uprisings to transport aid to the wounded. Even in the midst of our own revolution many Egyptians went to Libya to help and offer support, while others collected donations and bought supplies. It’s bigger than one’s country now. It’s a global movement. Now the wave is in the Arab world, who knows where it go in a few months. Freedom is contagious after all.

Power to the people, power to the peaceful.

 

Today’s goal: Detain anyone who looks like a foreign journalist

Feb 4, 2011

Today’s governmental target seemed to be bloggers and foreign journalists or foreigners in general. Since around noon the government hired thugs were harassing and attacking foreigners and anyone who looked foreign along with a handful of Egypt’s most influential bloggers like Sandmonkey and Traveler Within.

This could have been done in an attempt to scare off outsiders’ coverage of the revolution since they have been the ones reporting on what is actually happening. Unlike the Egyptian media which has been nothing more than a propaganda machine spreading messages of false national pride and mixing it with the current regime staying in power. Not to mention the downright wrong coverage of what has been happening in Tahrir. Today two people working in government run TV channel Nile TV officially gave in their resignation saying they do not want to be part of this propaganda machine after being instructed not to cover what is happening in Tahrir on Wednesday. Watch a video CBS made of Egyptian media and this revolution here.

Along with the terror factor, the government is trying to have a media blackout to ensure that only their messages get through to the international community.

A friend of ours Clemzi, was among those detained. He’s out and safe now, after being handcuffed and blindfolded for around five hours when he was caught by thugs then handed over to the Egyptian army. He was treated relatively well (in comparison to others, mainly Egyptians, in his same position anyway).

I dedicate this short post to him. Clemzi has taken a hugely active role in this revolution from sharing tips on demonstrations, helping people during the tear gas incidents, throwing the tear gas bombs and rocks back at the police and cleaning the streets of Tahrir. His dedication to this cause, even though he has only lived in Egypt for a mere 6 months was inspiring not only me, and other friends, but people in Tahrir who were thanking him and patting him on the back.

Thank you Clemzi. I’m sorry you had to go through that.

Photo by Hossam El-Hamalawy

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