Hania Sholkamy writes about the reaction to the Million Women march in Tahrir on March 8 and suggests considerations for moving forward. This piece really resonated with me. Check it out at the Pathways site: From Tahrir Square to my Kitchen.
“Under the influence of this optimism and immersed in internet fueled naiveté hundreds of women and men sought to go to the square and actually say what they had not dared speak in the past. The demonstrators dropped the veil of caution and voiced demands for equality and for civil rights and equal rights of citizenship. Perhaps their gesture and stance was badly presented or wrongly timed but what remains is the fact of differences amongst Egyptians who are now building a new Egypt. Evidently the space of protest is not a neutral one when it comes to questions of gender. But there are more important lessons with which we need to contend. I would like to discuss two.
The first is that democracy may not deliver equal rights for women. Democracy can become a tyranny if not tempered by a commitment to basic principles and freedoms. Despite the rebirth of politics and participation, there is no guarantee that the political process will be a fair one. It has been easy to get millions to agree to jettison Mubarak. It will be hard to get them to agree on what comes next. Whatever the politics of our future governments and legislatures may be, some basic principles of rights and freedoms have to be clearly stated and not left to the vagaries of elections. All free nations have imposed limits on the ability of people to harm or undermine their compatriots. This is a position we need to realize and cement into our national psyche.
The second lesson is that women should focus on demanding democratic processes that enable them to have voice and realize achievements. We should perhaps have demonstrated to dissolve the national machinery known as the National Council for Women and create a new body formed of civil society organizations with an elected board that is accountable to its constituents. We should insist on quotas for women within every new and old political party so as to insure that all politics are gendered. We should lobby for participatory policy councils that oversee the services we require from the state. These local councils would consult their citizens when planning health, social protection, education, policing and housing policy through a legally binding process. Perhaps women can realize citizenship-focused democracy by demanding the mechanisms that deliver justice to all.”