New PM Essam Sharaf has been a decent guy so far in my books. Thanks to the much-needed help of my faithful office buddies ( colleagues, if you are feeling in the mood for a professional shout out) Heba Gowayed and Ali Atef, here is a copy of the Masry Al Youm article (Arabic) about Sharaf announcing the formation of a new representative committee for women, translated into English:
Activists welcome Sharaf’s initiative for the establishment of a representative committee for women and demanded the abolition of the quota
A number of women leaders welcomed the announcement of Dr Essam Sharaf, Prime Minister, for the establishment of a new representative committee for women, under the Cabinet of Ministers, which would support the role of women in all aspects of life. The women leaders demand the necessity of forming a real women’s union, and the abolition of the women’s quota to avoid discrimination against men or women.
Shahinda Maqlid, a member of the Egyptian Women for Change movement, said to Al-Masry Al-Youm, that this initiative was good and was an alternative to the High Council for Women, which was headed by Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak, wife of the former president of the republic. She was observant of the necessity of establishing a women’s union that encompasses the greater number of political and social powers from all ages for the development of society that are not members of a particular political party as was the case with the previous regime.
Maqlid demanded the necessary introduction of an unconditional representative roster which permits all constituencies representation in the Egyptian Parliament during the coming period and which would benefit women, Copts, fellaheen, and workers alike. She was critical of the quota for women which determined a certain percentage of seats for women in parliamentary elections.
Maqlid assured that women had a distinctive role in the events of the January 25th revolution in many governorates of Egypt, in addition to continuing political battles for decades to protect the rights of the fellaheen and in supporting the real estate tax collector sit-ins and also different protests in demanding political and social rights.
Margaret Azer, secretary general for the Democratic Front Party, supported Maqlid in the necessity of the representative committee having an effective role in recruiting supporters for women as a real alternative to National Council of Women including all political movements and intellectual cadres and political leanings and different constituencies within society to play an educational role in society.
Azer said to Al-Masry Al-Youm that the establishment of a representative committee for women must be a temporary phase and through which awareness can be raised of society of the role of women and their capabilities toward the progression political, intellectual works and the elimination of the idea of “women’s quota” and anything that can put women in allocated positions, and establishing a “representative roster” with the condition that women on this roster have secure footing, indicating that representative roster will allow all sectors of society the chance for participation and will eliminate under the trend of thugs, businessmen and bribery in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Azer asked for the reformulation of elements of the constitution to highlight the role of women so that she is represented in all dimensions of life, critical of the marginalization of women during the previous phase through their representation in ministries, especially in the creation of the most recent ministries.
Kareema Hefnawy, member of the Egyptian Women for Change movement and the Kefaya movement, rejected the establishment of a representative committee for women because she considers this as if the society is bestowing charity to women by giving them their rights as opposed to men. She insists on the necessity of changing the views of society towards women, which is what would help her in getting rights without resorting to the establishment of a representative committee for women or a national council for women, that holds meeting in famous hotels without taking strong measures to benefit women.
Hefnawy indicated that specific councils for women will lead after a brief time to a type of “cronyism” and will provide superficial services as was the case in the past. She advocates for the abolition of the women’s quota and against discrimination and for giving women the opportunity to compete in free elections.
She demanded the necessity of equal opportunity between women and men, especially in the formation of ministries and not only giving women the ministries of housing and motherhood, childhood and social security.