“If it wasn’t for the darkness I wouldn’t have understood the light,” an opening phrase for an Egyptian short film released in 2017 produced under supervision of the Egyptian national council for women telling a story about a girl in rural Egypt who overcome challenges whilst continuing her education.
It is a film inspired by true events that a lot of Egyptian girls in rural Egypt can relate to. However, there has been early signs that the political will amassed after the 30th of June revolution which toppled the brotherhood is heading to a new dawn for Egyptian women. Since under the rule of transitional government after overthrowing the brotherhood and as the current elected president of Egypt Abdel Fattah El-Sisi used to hold office as minister of defence he launched a programme to finance paying debts to release working women sentenced for failing to pay their family house held purchases.
Debts ranging from 1000 to 15000 pounds per family where paid with funds coming from salary deductions of army officers and personnel to make sure these women are returned to their families. Though the direction of sociopolitical mind map under the brotherhood led to a women representation percentage of less than 2% in the Egyptian parliament, less than two years later the 30th of June revolution parliament scored a historically un precedent 19% women representation percentage.
Analysts attributed this increase in women political representation to the 2014 constitution that ensured a minimum quota for women and added new women’s rights articles such as article 11 that reads: “The State shall ensure the achievement of equality between women and men in all civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution. The State shall take the necessary measures to ensure the appropriate representation of women in the houses of representatives, as specified by Law. The State shall also guarantee women’s right of holding public and senior management offices in the State and their appointment in judicial bodies and authorities without discrimination.
The State shall protect women against all forms of violence and ensure enabling women to strike a balance between family duties and work requirements. The State shall provide care to and protection of motherhood and childhood, female heads of families, and elderly and neediest women.” This article replaced the brotherhood constitution article that only stated Egyptian women’s rights as mothers and wives according to their understanding of Sharia law!
After Abdel Fattah El-Sisi was elected president, constitutional articles were followed by executive orders. More historical milestones took place with the appointment of the first woman National Security Advisor in Egypt and Middle East, the first woman governor, and the first three women deputy governors in governorates of Cairo, Giza and Alexandria. Moreover, despite claims made by Islamist parliament members that women circumcision is required by Sharia law, the Egyptian parliament passed an amendment to a law prohibiting female genital mutilation (FGM), increasing the penalties. The new law provided for prison terms of five to seven years for those who carry out FGM and up to 15 years if the procedure results in permanent disability or death. Anyone who escorts girls to undergo female genital mutilation will also face one to three years in prison.
In March 2017, President El-Sisi and President of Egypt’s National Council of Women, Dr. Maya Morsi jointly declared 2017 Year of Women for Egypt on International Women Day’s meeting at the President’s Palace in Cairo. According to the state information service publication, this means granting Egyptian women more rights to making positions: in political parties, trade unions, civil society organisations, and state’s institutions, either legislative, executive or judiciary. The strategy of the Egyptian woman in 2030 consists of five pivots, political and economic empowerment, societal protection, cultural and legal pivots.
According to Maya Morsi the motive for Egyptian women empowerment includes an economical agenda; “Women engagement in the workforce is crucial for the nation’s economy,” said Morsi, “as the IMF stated in 2015, if women had the same equal opportunities in the work force as men do, the Egyptian GDP will experience a 34% increase.”
Bridging this economic gender gap is contingent on the core principles of establishing high-level corporate support for gender equality, treating all women and men fairly at work, ensuring the health and safety of male and female workers equally, promoting education and professional development, and publicly reporting measured progress in achieving gender equality in organisations.