Egyptian Women Who Made History You should Know
By: Tasnim Elnasharty/ Arab America Contributing Writer
In a culture limited by oppression, Egyptian women never stood a chance to gain a similar distinction, power, and accomplishment of an Egyptian man. Women remained out of sight while men remained in the front line, taking credit for what women also contributed. Women were seen as peasants, and women’s privileges issues were elitist and irrelevant.
Despite the entirety of that, many women have taken off of statues of accomplishment that were unmatched to that of a man at that point. There have been women who flourished and triumphed despite seemingly insurmountable opposition, women who had safeguarded their nation, who did men’s work, went down to business, made policy changed, and women who have made it in sports, business and morals.
Tahany El Gebali
“EVERYTHING NEW IS AT FIRST RESENTED. WHEN WOMEN FIRST WENT OUT TO LEARN, PEOPLE SAID IT WAS THE END OF TIME, WHEN THEY WENT OUT TO WORK THEY SAID IT WOULD BE THE END OF THE WORLD. BUT IT WASN’T. AND WOMEN HAVE PROVEN THEMSELVES IN ALL FIELDS.”
Tahany El Gebali made headlines in 2003 when she was appointed as Egypt’s first female judge. She gained nation full prominence after acquiring a series of high-profile cases. She was also the first woman to be elected to the Permanent Bureau of the Union of Arab Lawyers. Tahany was ranked 23rd on The World’s 100 Most Powerful Arab Women by Arabian Business. Recently, Tahany was appointed Deputy President of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court.
Nawal El Saadawi
TO ME, ‘BEAUTY’ MEANS TO BE NATURAL, CREATIVE, HONEST – TO SAY THE TRUTH.”
Nawal El Saadawi is an Egyptian women’s rights activist, author, physician, and psychiatrist. She has published many books about women and Islam. Also, she founded the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association and co-founded the Arab Association for Human Rights. Saadawi has been awarded honorary degrees in three continents, some of which entail North-South prize from the Council of Europe in 2004 and the Inana International Prize in Belgium in 2005.
THEY PUT ASIDE THE TALK OF PEACE AND INSTEAD ACTED FOR PEACE.” [REFERRING TO THE PEACE TREATY MADE BETWEEN HER HUSBAND, ANWAR AL SADAT, AND ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER BEGIN.
Jehan Sadat is the former Egyptian First Lady and widow of former President Anwar El Sadat. Jehan dedicated much of her life to volunteer work with the less fortunate. During her husband’s presidency, Sadat changed the world’s view of Arab women by participating in volunteer work.
Sadat also received many national and international awards for public service and humanitarian work with women and children. She has been awarded over 20 national and international honorary doctorate degrees from universities and institutions around the world. Also, She was the first female chairperson for the People’s Council of Munofeyya Provincial governorate. Jehan Sadat has been a visiting professor at many universities, such as the University of South Carolina, Radford University, and American University (AU).
“MY FATHER WAS UNEASY. THE IDEA THAT HIS DAUGHTER SHOULD SING IN FRONT OF MEN HE DIDN’T KNOW, WAS DIFFICULT FOR HIM TO ACCEPT, BUT MY SINGING HELPED SUPPORT THE FAMILY. SO HE DRESSED ME IN BOY’S CLOTHES, AND I SANG THIS WAY FOR SEVERAL YEARS. I REALIZE NOW THAT HE WANTED TO CONVINCE HIMSELF, AND THE AUDIENCE TOO, THAT THE SINGER WAS A YOUNG BOY, AND NOT A YOUNG WOMAN.”
Umm Kulthum was an Egyptian singer, songwriter, and actress who sang for almost four decades. Her success as a singer and a songwriter exceeded others ‘, and her cultural power is unparalleled. She recorded hundreds of songs, and her fame rose to levels unforeseen for Arab women at the time. Kulthum toured in the Middle East singing in cities like Damascus, Baghdad, Beirut, Tunis, and Tripoli. She had private concerts for Presidents and Royals. Today, Kulthum is regarded as the greatest female Arabic singer in history.
“I CAN TELL YOU CHARACTER TRAITS I ADMIRE AND WORK TO DEVELOP IN MYSELF – PERSEVERANCE, SELF-DISCIPLINE, COURAGE TO STAND UP FOR WHAT IS RIGHT EVEN WHEN IT IS AGAINST ONE’S FRIENDS OR ONE’S SELF.”
Dalia Mogahed made history when she became the first veiled Muslim woman to hold a position in the White House. In 2009, she was selected to be Barack Obama’s advisor on the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighbourhood Partnerships. Mogahed was also the Executive Director of the Gallup American Centre for Muslim Studies.
Huda Al Sharawi
“MEN HAVE SINGLED OUT WOMEN OF OUTSTANDING MERIT AND PUT THEM ON A PEDESTAL TO AVOID RECOGNIZING THE CAPABILITIES OF ALL WOMEN.”
Huda Sha’arawi is perhaps one of Egypt’s most famous feminist figures of all time, along with Durriya Shafiq, Safia Zaghloul, and Ester Fanous. Sha’arawi was the founder of the Egyptian Feminist Union. In 1919, Sha’arawi helped organize one of the most massive women’s anti-British protests of all time. After attending the International Woman Suffrage Alliance Congress in Rome, Sha’arawi decided to remove her face veil. This act would go down in history as one of the most defining moments of feminist resistance in Egypt.
Youssra Mohammed Hafez Nassem
‘STAR OF THE MIDDLE EAST’
The most prominent female entertainment name in the Arab world was born as Civene Mohamed Nasim. Yousra, her stage name, began making films in the ’70s. She has worked as a UN Goodwill Ambassador and was ranked 29th most influential Arab woman by Arabian Business. Yousra has received more than 50 awards in recognition for her work as a UNDP Goodwill Ambassador.
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