Egyptian women under patriarchal mentality-10

Egyptian feminist movement

News Center -The Egyptian feminist movement is considered one of the oldest feminist movements in the Middle East and the Arab region, led by the activist Huda Shaarawi since the beginning of the last century and feminists still carry the banner of Shaarawi for struggling against the male society and the patriarchal system.

The awareness of Egyptian women on the status of French women through the French campaign in the country had an important role in the emergence of feminist awareness.  In 1798, the first women’s conference took place in the country and women discussed the issues related to women. They held this conference in Rashid Governorate after their participation in resisting the French forces that invaded the country, and discussions centered on the difference between the situation of Egyptian and French women in the family.

1919 Revolution

The beginning of the Egyptian feminist movement was constituted after their participation in the revolution of 1919 against the British occupation, as it was the first departure from customs and traditions, and a break with the traditional concept of the role of women in the community associated with the home and raising children, but before that the opinions of the educated women contributed to publishing women's magazines. The cultural salons were supervised by women such as Nazli Fadel, and the famous Palestinian writer Mai Ziada, in raising women's awareness of the importance of women.

Some educated women devoted space to women's issues and affairs. Egypt was the first country to publish the first women's magazine in the Arab world in 1898, titled “The Girls”, thanks to the Lebanese journalist Hind Nofal. After that, several magazines like “Girls of the East” published in 1906, and then the Journal of "Nice Sex" published in 1908

Women's branch at the university was a shameful experience

The Egyptian University was established in 1908 for male students but after the protests of women, space was allocated for them in the name of the female branch.

The beginning was unsuccessful, French women learned to give lectures, which made them confined to the daughters of the aristocracy, but then Egyptian female intellectuals gave the lectures, such as thinker and writer Nabawiya Musa, who was one of the pioneers of the national action and the liberation of women, and she was also the first Egyptian woman to obtain a certificate of the baccalaureate. But the women's branch project failed and it was closed after four years, in 1912.

Huda Shaarawi, a pioneer of feminism

Hoda Shaarawi started her activities outside the framework of the home and the family by establishing charitable societies and helping women and people in need. In 1909, she established a dispensary for poor people; all workers of the organization were women. In the same year, she raised the issue of the hijab. She initiated a movement to remove the hijab, as she had logical opinions about gradually removing the hijab to avoid society's reaction.

Hoda Shaarawi was an active member of the women’s religious union founded by Malak Hanafi, and discussed women's rights as a matter of Islam as the source of women's rights against the male customs and traditions.

She chaired the central delegation committee for women, which was established by women participating in the demonstrations of 1919. After several years, Huda Shaarawi called for the establishment of an independent feminist association to support Egyptian women and demand their rights, so the Women's Union was established in 1923.

Many feminists carried the banner of Huda Shaarawi, including the human rights activist Nawal Al-Saadawi, and Majda Adly, who witnessed the fateful Black Wednesday incident in 2005.

Malak Hefni Nassif and Duryea Shafiq

Malak was born in 1886, a pioneer of the feminist movement in Egypt, she was the first Egyptian woman openly demanded the liberation of women and gender equality because the situation of women was very bad in the country.

In 1911, she participated in the first Egyptian conference to discuss the problems of developing society and the nation, after that, she formed the "Women Disciplinary Union", one of her most important opinions on the controversial issue of the hijab was to give it up gradually to protect women from society's reaction.

She formulated ten feminist demands for inclusion in the 1923 constitution that she focused on granting education to girls and women's rights in the context of marriage.

Duryea Shafiq was an intellectual revolution, and a champion of women's rights to the extreme, born in 1908. She established the magazine called “Bint Al-Nile” in 1945, the first Arab women's magazine to raise awareness of women about their rights and duties. After less than ten years, she formed the Bint Al-Nile political party and led a demonstration against the British occupation in 1951, but she was arrested because she stormed the council of Representatives for demanding women should enter Parliament. In 1945, she protested the formation of a council to discuss the issuance of a new constitution for the country without including any women.

 The Union of Bint Al-Nil was formed by Duryea Shafiq in 1948, and it had a distinctive role in the feminist movement, its members raised demands to amend the electoral law in a manner that equates women and men, to restrict the right to divorce, polygamy, and equal wages.

Feminist Union in 1923

The Egyptian Women's Union was established as an organization to protect women and claim their rights, and it became more active after evaded of the leaders of the revolution men of their promises to give women the rights they had made during the struggle.

Huda Shaarawi understood that men used them in the struggle to drive out the occupiers, and when they regained control of the country they denied the sacrifices of women.

In the same year of its founding, the Union joined the International Women's Alliance and announced the publication of a women’s Egyptian newspaper in 1925.

The Union called for equality between men and women in all political, social, and higher education fields, and the enactment of a law prohibiting the marriage of minors under 16 years of age, and also called for addressing social problems by enacting laws regulating divorce, polygamy, and granting women their political rights by granting them the right to vote.

Education reform demands were accepted only by requiring girls to go to primary schools, and proposals to reform the Personal Status Law were rejected, the union was dissolved in 1956.

Mass feminist demonstration in 1951

At the beginning of the fifties, particularly in 1951, a mass female demonstration took place to support the popular resistance movement in the Canal Zone, veiled and unveiled women across the country joined the demonstration. Female intellectuals and housewives walked side by side. The demonstrators carried pictures of the Egyptian feminist Huda Shaarawi, and the pictures of the martyr Umm Saber, who was shot by British forces in the channel.

This demonstration led to the establishment of the Women's Committee for Popular Resistance, and announced its foundation; its program included announcing the participation of women in resisting colonialism.

Limited feminism movement

The state imposed its censorship on the feminist movement after the revolution of the free officers in 1952, linked all feminist organizations to state institutions, and limited its work, and it was limited to work only in the charitable field.

Duryea Shafiq was one of the victims of the Nasserite regime, she was prevented from engaging in the public field, and was placed under house arrest, and the state worked to erase all its accomplishments in history books and social media, until her death in 1975.

The women did not stop and demanded legislative amendments regarding personal status laws, especially in matters of divorce, but nothing changed.

At the moment, feminism is still limited, and activists need permits to organize awareness or even charitable events.

CEDAW Agreement

After the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981 and the receipt of Hosni Mubarak for the presidency, the state established its grip on civil society and one of its results was the ratification of the agreement to abolish all forms of violence against women, such as "CEDAW" convention in the same year and the way was opened for women to establish women's organizations after changing the laws of founding NGOs.

The first women's organizations were the Center for New Women's Studies in 1984 and the Association of Arab Women in 1987, the establishment of several feminist organizations defending women's rights aimed to end discrimination and violence against women.

In 1994, Egypt hosted the International Conference on Population and Development, and women's issues emerged as a national priority, after that the campaigns were launched against FGM and the demands for women's reproductive rights.

Through these campaigns, women sought to shed light on the clear discrimination against women, and the signing of international conventions supporting their rights and even human rights conventions, most feminist organizations attached great importance to the family at the expense of women's issues, and their programs were in line with the interests of each party and not according to the interests of women and certainly with the interest of the authority.

Setback in 1999

The male patriarchal fears began to appear with the escalation of feminist activity, so the amendment of the Law of Associations in 1999 allowed the state’s control of the feminist movement to form a feminist linked to power is a real setback in the feminist movement.

The feminist work was framed in proportion to every system that receives power, the establishment of the National Council for Women by presidential decision and the handing over of its presidency to the President's wife, Suzan Mubarak, was clear control of the feminist movement, the state did not stop there but rather gave the presidency of most of the women's institutions, including the National Center for Childhood Maternity and the National Women's Commission for the President's wife also.

Feminists rejected the Constitutional Amendment of 1999, so the state announced a law in 2002 that imposed more restrictions against women.

The thought of feminist development in the nineties, the feminists raised the level of demands and did not stop at combating domestic violence and FGM, and demanded that women should be given the right to control their bodies, including reproductive and sexual rights, against honor crimes, statements of virginity, and all forms of violence.

Arab Spring is the fall of Egyptian women

Women participated strongly in the revolution of January 25, 2011; they did not only shout their own demands for women, but also for the overthrow of the regime.

Women participated in various cultural and religious events, even those who had never believed in feminism or women's rights were present, but women's organizations were ineffective and their participation in the revolution was individual.

Women continued to participate despite all the harassment and rape they had experienced in protests, and smear campaigns by the regime's media.

After the overthrow of the regime, the representatives of some organizations met and issued a statement in support of the revolution and demanded change. On February 20 of the same year, the “Alliance of Women’s Organizations” was formed, and after holding presidential elections won by the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Muhammad Morsi, some members of this alliance agreed to form a group of "women and the constitution" including representatives of some feminist organizations, Egyptian human rights institutions, and feminist activists and researchers to participate in drafting a new constitution for the country to guarantee women's rights.

But the 2012 Constitutional Committee was disappointing, the representation of women was weak, even though the women contributed to the success of the revolution and forced President Mohamed Hosni to step down.

The pictures of feminist pioneers who did not wear a hijab were removed from the educational curricula, as well as history curricula. The Islamic regime worked to show the religious woman model and give a big role to Muslim sisters.

Muslim sisters are a feminist movement

Many believe that the role of women in the Muslim Brotherhood movement is not feminist, but for others, it may be correct to classify it as a form of Islamic feminism, but it is certain that the Muslim Brotherhood movement has used women as a tool since its foundation by Hassan Al-Banna.

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt established a women's wing within the organization in the name of “Muslim sisters”. Two years after the foundation of the group in 1928, this organization was used as a tool to fight the Huda Shaarawi liberation movement and was also used for religious advocacy.

The movement's vision of women has been traditional, always stressing that the place of women is home and their primary role is to serve the family. Labiba Ahmad, head of the first group of Muslim sisters, confirmed this view by saying that "The basis for reforming this nation is reforming the family, and the first persons to reform the family are to reform the girls".

Zainab Al-Ghazali, born in 1917, was the pioneer of this trend. She joined the organization in 1938 at the request of Banna to train the new feminist organization; she served the organization until her death in 2005. She was a member of the Women's Union but left them and founded the Muslim Women Association.

Feminist movement after the 2013 coup

Women largely accepted the 2013 constitutional referendum, which is an amendment to the 2012 constitution, because the new constitution supports women's rights, the most important of these rights is the criminalization of gender discrimination in every sphere of life. Article 11 states that "the state guarantees equality between women and men in all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.”

The Fifty Committee rejected the approval of AL-Quota in all its forms in parliament, despite the women’s insistence on its implementation, and the constitution stated that "The state is working to take measures to ensure adequate representation of women in the parliament in the manner determined by law". Article 180 of the constitution approved a quota for women in the elected local councils.

The National Council for Women periodically issues statistics on cases of violence against women.

Activist Nawal Al-Saadawi

We cannot ignore the role of the prominent activist Nawal Al-Saadawi in the feminist movement, especially in the modern era, she was born in 1931 and a psychologist and chest physician, writer, and novelist working on women's issues in her book, she was subjected to FGM when she was a child, so she was one of the fiercest opponents of this phenomenon.

She established the Arab Women Solidarity Association in 1982, and contributed to establishing the Arab Foundation for Human Rights, she was arrested in the era of Anwar Sadat because she established a feminist magazine called "confrontation" in 2008.

The history of Egypt is very ancient, and the issues of women are many and don’t end in the country, the granddaughters of Hatshepsut and Cleopatra are still struggling to obtain their human rights and revive the glories of women who disappeared due to male domination of the world.