Hania Sholkamy’s op-ed was published in today’s El-Shorouk paper: The People Want Equity for Women
Summary (courtesy of my wonderful colleague Heba Gowayed): Sholkamy begins by describing the scene in Tahrir square, where men and women stood side by side in complete equality during the weeks of the uprising leading to the ouster of Mubarak. She describes the scene as an eloquent testament to justice, and to the “safeguarding of women’s effective political participation, without exposure to harassment”. However, she questions whether this scene is sufficient to indicate a move from traditional feminist action that focuses on liberating women from social isolation, and whether it is imperative to end the institutionalized feminist action that fell with the fall of the regime. She argues that since 1952, Egyptian women have gained social and political rights, including the right to vote. She argues that this work continued into the Mubarak Era where the main institutional actor was the National Council for Women (NCW), run under Suzanne Mubarak (ex-first lady).
Sholkamy argues that while the NCW attempted to make gains for women, using the international community as a reference for policy regarding women’s rights, the NCW ran under a national agenda, which both marginalized other women’s groups, and prevented the development of real change towards bettering the social, legal and economic position of women. She looks towards the future, beginning with a description of slogans intended for use in the March 8th women’s demonstration which exclaim that “citizens want equity for women”. She notes that these slogans indicate that their freedom depends on mutual respect and unity. In this vein, she suggests the establishment of a new National Council for Women, a “Council for Women’s Issues”, whose members would be elected and which would represent the women’s groups that exist in Egypt whether they be NGOs or feminist institutions. This group, she argues, would have the right to present and negotiate demands, based on the consensus of the group. She calls for a commitment from the government to then meet the demands of these women, which will be developed in a democratic and transparent fashion.