Fifty five of those who drafted the new Egyptian constitution were women.
This was the climax of Egyptian women’s prominent participation in the two waves of Egypt’s revolution, January 25, 2011 and June 30, 2013. During the first wave, ex-president Hosni Mubarak was toppled, along with his police state. During the second wave, ex- president Mohamed Morsi was also toppled, along with his religious state. Egyptian women were fighters during both waves; they were shot, injured, and arrested.
The participation of women on such a scale, which reached its climax during the constitutional referendum, is rooted in a long history of social movements, protest, strikes, and sit-ins by increasingly greater numbers of women and men. Workers, peasants, and government officials who had not protested since the national 1919 revolution against British occupation, participated in these recent revolutions on a large scale.
Among the leaders of these protest movements, women, who went to the squares with their children and husbands, were prominent. The strike, which continued for more than one year was a real surprise on two levels: first, it was organized through the official channels of the syndicate; second, the massive scale of women’s participation.
Only one year before January 2011, there were 2,700 protests across Egypt. Women were visible everywhere.
Their presence was given high visibility during both waves of the revolution. The demands of women were part and parcel of the revolutionary movement – demands that included bread, freedom, social justice, and human dignity.
Feminists were convinced that the revolutionary slogans would be strongly linked to the emancipation of women, if they could achieve the difficult task of advancing gender sensitivity.
Among the jobless people 75% are women. 30% of the Egyptian families are led by women, who also generate 32% of urban wealth and 42% of wealth in rural communities. However they own only 7% of rural land, where their work is mostly unpaid.
More than 30% of Egyptian women are illiterate. Poor girls are usually obliged to leave school for different reasons. Although women in the diplomatic corps represent 20%, when it comes to the political sector, women’s representation is very low even among the liberal parties.
The new constitution of 2014 recognizes the quota system, condemns all forms of discrimination, and opened the door for women to join the judiciary without any limitations. It also considered [international] human rights conventions, including those pertaining to women’s rights, as part and parcel of the national legal system.
Based on the new constitution, the Forum for Women in Development (FWID) is preparing a lawsuit against the government’s reservations to CEDAW, primarily the reservation to article 2, which calls for governments to guarantee women effective protection from discrimination.
The road map for the country’s future, declared on July 3, 2013, prioritized the establishment of a new constitution, followed by presidential elections, and then parliamentary elections, at last.
This road map opened the door for Egyptian women and the feminist movement to build a different future inspired by the rights enshrined in the constitution to secure bread, freedom, social justice, and human dignity.