The Egyptian Center for Women Rights (ECWR), led by prominent women’s rights activist Nehad Aboul Komsan, held a press conference Sunday to discuss the status of Egypt’s women in 2014.
As part of International Women’s Day, the ECWR issued a report entitled “2014, the year of unfulfilled promises”. In the report, the centre traced women’s political participation, and the economic and social rights of women in Egypt.
The report found that the constitution passed in January 2014: guaranteed women’s position in local municipalities; allowed her to pass her nationality to her children; and raised the minimum age of obligatory education to contain the issue of early marriages.
“Yet, Egypt ranked number 129 of 142 countries around the globe in gender gap progress according to the Economic Forum’s assessment of 2014,” the report said. It also traced a setback in women’s political empowerment, which retreated from position 125 in 2012, to 128 in 2013, before finally reaching 134 in 2014.
The conference’s political discussion focused on that point.
“We noticed from our visits to rural areas and far small towns across Egypt that the citizens want women who are engaged in political life to have personal interaction with them,” stated Mona Mounir, a politician and member of independent group “Women’s Coordination for working with the masses”.
Mounir said that when citizens see a potential female parliamentary candidate working on real grounds and communicating with the people, they tend to encourage and endorse her.
“We have long complained about the unfairness to women in parliamentary affairs, stating the main obstacle she faces, as lack of financial resources needed for electoral campaigns,” Mounir said.
Nonetheless, Mounir blamed civil society organisations for not being effective in comparison to other political currents’ activities.
“The extreme right wing is very active and influential in such places,” she said. “Female parliamentary candidates need to get closer to the people, break the ice.”
One of the conference’s highlights was also to link the work of NGOs to effectiveness to achieve the best results. “It is not just about holding press conferences and inviting female figures to meet with public officials. Results need a successful mechanism to be reached,” Aboul Komsan said.
She explained that when it comes to parliamentary candidates, women must be well trained to manage their electoral campaigns. “They must also be very knowledgeable about priority issues they want to discuss in the parliament, or are they going in without a plan?” Aboul Komsan continued.
Women have 56 seats guaranteed of the total 567 seats in the parliament according to the representation defined in the parliamentary law. Additionally, it is expected that nearly 14 women will be appointed in the parliament by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.
Women participated in the writing of the new constitution. The ECWR’s report noted that, with the exception of Al-Azhar Institution and the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce, none of the political parties, syndicate or other state institutions, chose women to represent them in the 50-member committee which drafted the constitution.
The report also noted that women’s presence in government leading position was scarce. There are four women out of 34 new ministers, one woman only out of 16 in the Egyptian Council for Scientists, none in the committee of Legislative Reform. This comes despite the three institutions recently being established, and with Al-Sisi directly involved in appointments.