CAIRO: Egypt celebrates women’s day on Sunday; yet a number of Egyptian women and reports show dissatisfaction with the current status of women in the country.
“The situation of women in Egypt is troubling. Although women are taking part in many initiatives and have some effective political and social roles; hard economic pressures exist,” writer Farida el-Naqash told The Cairo Post Sunday.
She added that “the fact that women are still unable to defend their representation in the government and the new quota system in the constitution means that women’s right are still being violated.”
Naqash praised the capability of women to assume influential positions, adding that she was surprised to discover women could become police colonels in Egypt; a position that she thought was only limited to men.
“Unfortunately, the situation of women in Egypt is the same; the only difference is that they now represent a large voting bloc, which was clearly noticed during the last referendum in January,” Karima Kamal, a writer and member of the High Press Council, told The Cairo Post.
Kamal added that while four women were part of Ibrahim Mahlab’s new government; “they are still not influential.”
Obstacles still face Women in Egypt
An April 2013 report by the United Nations Women found that 99.3 percent of surveyed women were subjected to sexual harassment in Egypt.
Despite harsh psychological and physical consequences, “most of the women and ladies who are subjected to any kind harassment or sexual abuse are now having the courage to report the abuser and the incident,” said Mohamed Fathy, the coordinator of the I Saw Harassment initiative.
Fathy told The Cairo Post Sunday that the initiative’s 2014 slogan is “Criminalize Harassment.”
According to Fathy, investigation into 70 harassment cases signaled that most harassment occurs in big cities like Cairo, Alexandria and Giza. He added that women were most likely to face verbal and physical harassment when using public transportation, like the metro and minibuses.
Women are the breadwinners of 30 percent of Egyptian families, Soheir Awad, the manager of the debtors program in Misr el-Kheir charity foundation, said.
“These women are shouldering the burdens of a family breadwinner and they face two problems: poverty and illiteracy,” Awad told The Cairo Post.
32.5 percent of women in Egypt were illiterate in 2012, while the men’s rate reached 17.6 percent, according to a press release issued March 6 by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS).
The high unemployment rate among women in Egypt is also a serious problem. The March CAPMAS release said the unemployment rate of females rose in 2012 to 24.1 percent, while the men’s rate reached 9.3 percent.
Kamal said even though many women were responsible for the management of their families’ affairs; “the Egyptian household still does not value their efforts or their important role.”
“The state shall ensure the right of women to hold public and senior management posts of the state and ensure the designation of women in the judicial bodies and authorities with no discrimination against them,” states article 11 of the 2014 constitution.
Kamal however, said that although the new constitution stipulates equality between men and women in assuming judicial positions; “the State Council refuses women to be judges.”
The State Council had rejected in January requests by a female law graduate to apply for a judicial position.
Mervat el-Tallawy, the chairperson of the National Council of Women’s (NCW) board, said in a phone call to Fil Midan TV show in January that the State Council violated the constitution by not accepting the appointment of female graduates, adding that the council claimed that “the jobs are for men only.”
Tallawy was listed by the Arabian Business Magazine on March 3 as one of the most powerful Arab Women.
Egyptian women: ‘Huge voting bloc’
The “huge voting bloc” women comprised during elections represents the “most prominent achievement for Egyptian women after two revolutions,” Kamal said, adding that women have to make use of their voting power in the future.
Hala Shukrallah, the first woman in Egypt to assume the position of the head of a political party, could be considered the beginning, Kamal said.
She described Shukrallah’s achievement as a “change that is not weak; but will take a long time.”