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Egypt's women stand their ground in Arab Spring

Monday, November 19, 2012 1:22 PM 
Women chant anti-military council slogans as they protest against the military council violations against female demonstrators in Cairo, December 20, 2011. REUTERS/AsmaaWaguih
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Wrote :Omnia Talal Shokr

The results of Egypt's parliamentary elections were disappointing for the aspirations of women. Only nine of them, representing less than two percent, made members despite the apparent participation of women in last year's uprising.

Some political experts believe that the presence of women in the now-dissolved parliament was only symbolic while others attribute their low participation to being placed at the bottom of the electoral lists.

The small number of women in Egypt's first post-revolution parliament raised concerns of shrinking women's political participation which may affect their past gains and undermine their role in society.

Despite their weak representation in parliament, January 25 has actually given women the opportunity to prove their competence in fighting for more freedoms and rights and defending past gains.

The representation of women before the uprising was very weak; seven women made it to the 444-member parliament in 1990, five made it in 1995, seven made it in 2000 and only four made it in 2005.

In 2010, only two Egyptian women were able to make it to parliament, in the absence of the quota system, which later allowed 64 women to take part in what later became the last parliament before the revolt to topple Mubarak.

Despite the fierce attack on women rights in light of the rise of Islamists and their sweeping victory in parliament, women resisted through forming coalitions and uniting forces to take to the streets and voice their demands.

They stood their ground as ultraconservatives asked them to stay home and denied them equal rights in the country's draft constitution by reducing their equality to "aspects that do not contradict Sharia (Islamic law)".

Egypt's women also made sure to participate in key political and social activities, alongside men, such as protest Article 68 of the draft constitution - dedicated to equality.

With the help of liberal forces, women were able to rid the draft constitution of the controversial article and amend another that is also concerned with women.

The new initiatives and coalitions that keep on forming to fight for women rights prove that things are on the right track and that the uprising produced a conscious generation who will not tolerate incomplete rights.

Women proved their competence in managing post-uprising events to their benefit. They also proved that they believe that the time has come to change the status of women in Egypt and the Arab world, using all means to demand more rights.

These efforts suggest that women are swiftly emerging to defend their gained freedoms and fight for more rights. 

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