Happy International Womens’ Day! (Or, Is It?)


Well, today’s the day that we celebrate women and commiserate on the secondary role that women are forced to occupy in many aspects of our lives. It is a beautiful sight to see so many women (& men!) out in solidarity and with equality in their minds.

On Saturday, I went to a wonderful event organised by several charities called 6 billion ways, which was all about ‘making another world possible’. Imagine my excitement when I saw that revolutionary socialist and activist Gigi Ibrahim was speaking. She has been a loud and eloquent member of the revolution who has (in my opinion) been a wonderful ambassador for Egyptian women and one who I have been proud to see, as it shatters many ideas that I have encountered about Muslim/Arab women (such as being passive and without a voice). I asked her at the end of her presentation about the revolution about the representation of women and what part she thought that feminism played in the revolution and what role the revolution will play in the future of feminism in Egypt and more widely in the Middle East? I guess she gets asked this alot, or about the role of women in Egypt as she replied that she is sick of being asked this question and that women played their part in the revolution and were present and that the problem  of gender discrimination/inequality is NOT big in Egypt, and the big problem is class discrimination. I have to say, I was quite disturbed by her reply. She said that they do not show women on the media, but that they are present and represented. I think she also assumed that I was British (& didn’t really know what I was asking about). It’s a shame that I was not given the opportunity to respond, as I know personally that gender is a big issue in Egypt. I would like to know if she thinks it acceptable that women have not had a SINGLE representative on the national committee which was created to write and establish the new constitution, which illustrates why inequality is a problem which doesn’t seem to have ended with the revolution.

Personally, I find class and gender discrimination a big problem, as well as many other types of discrimination and inequality in Egypt. There is a problem with racism, as well as homophobia, some religious intolerence and many other problems. I do think, however, that discrimination against women is rampant and needs to be addressed URGENTLY in Egypt and I am extremely upset that the lives of my sisters that fell in this revolution seem to be valued less than those of the men. Why are we being denied the opportunity to rebuild Egypt. How are we expected to change the entrenched bigotry that blights womens’ lives all the time if we are not present in the committees that will be shaping our new country. I am still impressed with Gigi’s story and with her bravery, activism & eloquence. I do hope, though, that more women of Egypt are given a platform, as Gigi was literally the first woman (& even man) that comes from Egypt that I have spoken to that denies that there is a problem with gender inequality in Egypt. Perhaps women that aren’t sick of being asked questions that they don’t like, it’s not exactly the best decorum for a speaker on a panel to have that kind of attitude – not the best impression to give. I hope that more Egyptian women are given a platform, heaven knows we have precious few!

Lastly, I think the actions of the men attacking my sisters in Tahrir today, who were marching for the advancement of womens’ rights and to celebrate International Womens Day (the first time they have been able to!) is an illustration of the entrenched endemic hate that many men have with women in Egypt. I am sick of this problem being brushed under the carpet. If being attacked, insulted, spat upon, harrassed and sexually harrassed is what women are putting up with in public with the media present and on a day like today, then imagine what they go through everyday of their lives?

I don’t feel like there is much to celebrate today as I see the plight of women today in the world. All I can hope for is that this time next year, I can look back at today and think about how much things have changed for the better.

I have said it before and I will say it again – Egypt needs a feminist revolution. The time is now or never.

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