News / Africa

Egyptian Women Contemplate Future Under New Leaders

Women clap and chant as presidential hopeful Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh enters the conference hall in Cairo, May 15, 2012 (Yuli Weeks/VOA).Women clap and chant as presidential hopeful Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh enters the conference hall in Cairo, May 15, 2012 (Yuli Weeks/VOA).
x
Women clap and chant as presidential hopeful Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh enters the conference hall in Cairo, May 15, 2012 (Yuli Weeks/VOA).
Women clap and chant as presidential hopeful Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh enters the conference hall in Cairo, May 15, 2012 (Yuli Weeks/VOA).
Elizabeth Arrott
CAIRO - Egypt's new political era is inspiring some women to become more assertive of their rights, even as others worry a possible Islamist victory in this week's presidential election might lead to those rights being curtailed. 

Women's rights conference

A recent women's rights conference in Cairo attracted a cross section of Egyptians - Muslims, Christians, leftists and conservatives.

Organizers of the new “An Egyptian Woman” campaign say they are reaching out to women across economic lines as well, especially to the poor, who often felt disenfranchised by the old government.

“They [i.e., the government] used to buy their votes and we want to teach them to be aware that they are responsible for their country.  They need to know on which criteria to chose their candidate and what does he offer for their future and their children's future,” stated Amani Hassan, conference organizer.

It is a relatively new concept for many in Egypt.  Previous women's rights groups, Hassan says, often were seen as exclusive and largely ineffectual. "The Egyptian women were only from the elite class of the society, she said. "They never felt the problems and daily life struggles of the Egyptian woman at large."

Whether those struggles are set to become greater if an Islamist is elected president is a point of contention.

  • A woman holds a poster for independent Islamist candidate Abdel-Moneim Aboul-Fotouh, Cairo, Egypt, May 15, 2012. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
  • A woman hands out fliers at a women's rights conference that attracted a cross section of Egyptians -- Muslims, Christians, leftists and conservatives. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
  • It is unclear if the next president of Egypt will help empower women. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
  • Hundreds of women attended the women's rights conference in Cairo. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
  • A woman in a niqab sits below a projected image of one of the conference speakers. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
  • Women clap and chant as presidential hopeful Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh enters the conference hall. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
  • Women clap and chant as presidential hopeful Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh enters the conference hall. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
  • Women in the audience listen to speakers. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
  • Women listen to speakers. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
  • A volunteer at the conference hands out campaign paraphernalia for presidential hopeful and independent Islamist candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
  • A volunteer at the conference hands out campaign literature for presidential hopeful and independent Islamist candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh. (Y. Weeks/VOA)

Challenging traditional attitudes

Human rights advocates note that Islamist lawmakers have tried to lower the minimum age for marriage and decriminalize female genital mutilation.

Hassan, who supports an Islamist candidate, says she is not worried. "There are extremists, yes.  But I don't think they are a majority and they can't lead the scene in Egypt," she said. " I am sure of this, inshallah [i.e., God willing]."

Whether a new president can counter pressure from fundamentalists is unclear.  The powers of the office have yet to be defined.  But some people at the women's rights conference said the average Egyptian's approach to religion will win out.

Noura Mohamed Ismail is a geographer at Cairo's Ain Shams University.

Ismail says moderate religiosity is best, and that Egypt is a moderate nation.  "Everything in the middle," she adds, "is good."

More than religion, Ismail says she worries about traditional, cultural attitudes toward women in a male-dominated society.

A local worker reinforces her point.

He says it is better for young men to work more than women.  "Women," he says, "should not do more because men are more able than women."

It is unclear whether Egypt's next president will play to such prejudice, or whether women's groups will help replace these views with a message of empowerment.

You May Like

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Mandy from: Texas
May 22, 2012 6:48 PM
God Bless to all the women in the world fighting for their rights!!!! They are always in my heart and my prayers!!!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs