26th AU Summit: Seeking for women rights in 21st century
By Aya Kathir
Women in general around the world are seeking for their rights . Women especially in Egypt are facing many challenges. Despite all of these, they are trying to be fully engaged in the public life and many of them succeeded already to grave their names in many fields. Analysis.
Throughout ages, History has been the witness of many women around the world who have been trying to break the rules in societies that were been controlled by men. They were seeking to prove themselves, by raising their voices and by seeking to reach their rights in playing a role in the community. According to Egypt’s vision 2030, women can be empowering socially, politically and economically. But women in Egypt are facing many challenges. Women are facing obviously an unprecedented phenomena of sexual harassment. According to 2013 UN Women report, nearly 99.3% of women have been sexually harassed. This problem has nothing to do with clothing, but it’s a stolen right of practicing their freedom. Just the fact of being a woman in a patriarchal society opens the door to be underestimated and neglected.
The United Nations in Egypt and the Egyptian government are combining their efforts to ensure the women’s freedom and safety by supporting the legislative changes and executing the laws which are considered as first steps to face this epidemic. The UNICEF reported that 91% of women and girls had undergone female genital mutilation, which has been criminalized in Egypt in 2008. It’s the evidence of the significant increase in the women’s health care in the last centuries. Women are facing sex segregation in the work place, which limits their ability to work and to maintain a higher position. There is also a gender segregation at school , especially in Upper- class with the withdrawal of girls from attending school when they reached the puberty. Many civil societies are facing the high illiteracy rates among women.
Many organizations and feminism groups are protecting women’s right, with the gender equality willing. One of them is the Egyptian Center for women’s rights (ECWR), for instance. Headed by Nihad Abu Al Qumsan, this non-governmental, non-profit organization has the mission to bring equality among men and women. Another one is the Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW). It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 18, 1979. This convention seeks to define discrimination against women as a human right issue. 189 countries have signed this convention.
Gamal Abdul Nasser’s legacy
The president Gamal Abdul Nasser guaranteed to women the right to vote . It was stated in the 1956 Egyptian constitution. The constitution prohibited therefore gender discrimination, which has been considered as the first steps to protect women rights in participating in the public decisions. Nearly 60% of people voting were female in the most recent elections.
The role of women increased widely in Mubarak’s era by the presence of reserved parliamentary seats for women. The 2013 Human Development report states that a high percentage of the parliamentary positions are held by women. Law allocating a quota of 64 seats in the parliament, increased more than 12% after the elections of 2010.
High female representative continued with the revolution of 2011, the female protestors were ranked between 40%-50%. Among the martyrs was Sally Zahran whose name will be planned to one of Mars spacecraft’s by NASA.
It was stated that 25.7% of top management positions in the state are held by women. In 2003, Tahani Al Gebali was the first-ever female judge in the Supreme Constitutional Court. She was the example of the first female who accessed for the first time to a higher judiciary position.
Women and Agriculture
Women play an important role in the production of food and goods. However they are deprived from equal ownership rights on land titles. There’s a worldwide prevalence of the male dominance which gave the male the right in inheritance, the consequences that it has been found that 41% of women who headed household are living under the defined poverty line.
Losing their right in property; they can’t improve their living conditions nor status while trying to provide an income to their family. They found themselves facing many obstacles because of discrimination, inadequate laws or even traditions practices.
In some cases, women can find themselves forced to work, obliged to face all the challenges. The migration also impacted women’s situation in Egypt as it was mentioned by the International Organization for Migration: two third of household are headed by women. Women make up 33% of the labor force in Egypt.
What are the solutions?
We need to recognize the women’s right to have an equal property ownership by a clearly stipulated laws and the surveillance of its execution by the government and the civil society. Currently, UN agencies such as FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), UN Women and the UN Development Fund are working with the non-governmental organizations to raise awareness among women of their rights, as it mentioned in Africa renewal. But is it enough?
Aya Kathir is a 23 years old young freelance egyptian journalist . She owns a bachelor of french litterature, obtained in the university of Cairo. Trilingual, she speaks arabic, english and french. She contributed to the famous newspaper « El Yom » as a poet. She was part of the university paper committee of the french litterature faculty. She is now based in the US where she is writing articles on human rights.