Feminist Movements in Egypt
By: Carrie Stewart / Arab America Content Creator
Throughout the world, there have been a variety of marches, protests, events, and movements to encourage women’s rights. Whether it be for voting rights, reproductive rights, or professional rights, women and their allies have had to fight for their place. The country in the Arab world with the most active feminist movements is Egypt. The following article will examine those movements, their goals, their successes, and the people involved.
The feminist movement in Egypt dates all the way back to the reign of Mohammed Ali (1805-1848). At this time there was a debate over whether women should be educated. Also at this time, wealthy women were founding hospitals, schools, and training centers.
By 1914 there were magazines that discussed women’s issues. In 1923, the Egyptian Feminist Party was founded. A new phase in the Egyptian Women’s Movement started after the end of the second war. At this point, younger people started to get involved with the rise of student and labor movements. The Women’s Political Party was established in 1942. Women finally got full political rights in 1956 when Egypt won independence.
As we know, however, political independence does not guarantee complete freedom
Nawal El Saadawi
In 1972 Nawal El Saadawi, Egyptian activist, writer, and physician, published her book Women and Sex. This book symbolized the re-emergence of radicalism and the movement while criticizing the practice of female genital mutilation. Much of this book was about how religion should not be used to justify women’s oppression. Given the rise of religious fundamentalism, this book caused a lot of controversies.
Nawal El Saadawi was also a co-founder of the Arab association for human rights and the President of the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association.
In 1981, she helped publish a feminist magazine called Confrontation. This was viewed as controversial and dangerous by the government and she ended up being imprisoned for it. She was released a month later.
Despite all efforts, there is still a lot of work to be done for women in Egypt. In 2020, the country ranked 134th out of 153 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index. Also, “only 18% of the working-age women are participating in the economy, compared to 65% of men.”
In January 2021 that the Egyptian cabinet approved a bill that “would require women to get the consent of a male guardian to get married, to register a child’s birth, or to travel abroad”
In 2000, the National Council for Women was established. With this organization, advances were made with respect to Personal Status laws. In 2006-2007 women started to become a big part of worker’s strikes. At this time, sexual violence was a major concern. El-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights was formed to address it. Then, intervention teams were formed to address it in 2012, such as Tahrir Bodyguards and Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment.
In 2011, Egyptian women were sexually assaulted in Tahrir Square, and women arrested for participating in protests were subjected to degrading “virginity tests.” This called for more collaboration among organizations. This resulted in the creation of the Coalition of Feminist Organizations in Egypt which was made up of 16 groups. This group brought together anti-sexual harassment groups and “organized rescue teams, provided medical and psychological support to victims, and raised public awareness. They also demanded investigation, prosecution, and fair trial of the crimes of sexual harassment and assault cases during 2011-2014 demonstrations.”
Today, women are still at the forefront of the battle. Young feminist groups are active both online and on the ground. In 2020, feminist groups started discussing more cases on social media. For example, there is the “Speak Up” Facebook Page.” “This relies primarily on contributions from participants, who tell their own stories of sexual violence in the public sphere and comment on others while encouraging women to resist violence by breaking the silence around it.”
Wondering what you can do to help? You can start out by checking out social media, donating, and speaking out!
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