Sunday, February 27, 2011

National Council of Women Does not Represent Egyptian Women

Egyptian women’s organisations make a firm statement that the Egyptian delegation at the CSW does not speak for the New Egypt. They are calling for real political, social, cultural and economic change and women’s agendas have to be part of it. Yet this will not be the case when people from the previous regime continue to be in power. The Coalition of Women’s NGOs in Egypt call on us to sign their petition for rapid dissolution of Egypt’s National Council for Women. You can read why below, and sign the petition here.

Women in the revolution

We interviewed Hibaaq Osman from international NGO el Karama and had e-mail contact with Mozn Hassan, Director of local NGO Nazra for Feminist Studies and Egypt Advisor for Global Fund for Women. They told us similar stories. The January 25 revolution was joined by all Egyptians who called for change. Women from different political views, cultural backgrounds, urban and rural classes, participated and were key actors. Hibaaq: “In Egypt, the women stood next to the men saying: we want change! Nobody said: ‘you are a woman so you can not participate.’ The women were good enough to stand next to the men.” The revolution reached certain results, one of which was the overthrow of the previous regime.

The New Egypt

Now these women find their voices in danger of being marginalized again. When the constitution and new political positions are negotiated, women are muted again. Hibaaq: “The same men that they were standing next to during the revolution, when they get into positions of power in the New Egypt, they say that women are less equal. This is a result of new actors getting integrated in systems of the old regime.” The old regime is also continued through women’s voices that fakely represent the New Egypt. Mozn: “The National Council for Women (NCW) which was headed by Suzan Mubarak, wife of previous president Hosni Mubarak, kept for years tryingg to manipulate the communities as a voice of Egyptian women. They did lots of fake unreal changes in order to show the international community that they are empowering women. What we learnt from the January 25 experience is that women who participated in it are refusing NCW & Suzan Mubarak rule, because it is part of the regime that we refuse. The trial of NCW at the CSW this year is giving the wrong message and a dangerous one, as if Egyptian women are supporting the previous regime. This is just wrong!”

Women demand their voices to be heard

How can we prevent women from being muted again? Hibaaq: “First of all, no-one is going to ‘give’ us anything. Women in Egypt should and will continue to demand our rightful place in the new systems. It is about time for a new generation that believes women are equal to men. My generation of women (she is about 40) was fighting for it, the new generation knows it and is out there asking for it.” Though this may largely be an internal matter, women’s representation at the CSW is something that concerns the international community, and one that we all can take action in. The Coalition of Women’s NGOs in Egypt hopes to distribute their statement by independent feminists &women's rights NGOs, refusing NCW representation, and have voices from all over the world supporting independent women to build the New Egypt with a clear gender agenda that could do real empowerment for women.

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