Those who played such a pivotal role in Egypt's revolution have been badly let down

My struggle didn’t begin in earnest until I chose a male sector in which to forge my career

Share
Related Topics

There are images that remain vivid in my mind from throughout the Egyptian revolution, which express the character of the women of Egypt. There is the image of Khaled Said’s mother protesting after her son’s death at the hands of the police, which triggered the events of 25 January 2011 – the start of the popular uprising against the rule of Hosni Mubarak. There are the images of Set El Banat, a woman being beaten by security forces in Tahrir Square; images of women standing in lines waiting to vote in the June 2012 presidential election, some of whom spoke on television saying they would vote for the “Islamic” candidate so God can bless Egypt, and some of whom (43 per cent of the female population, to be exact) could not read or write. And then there are the images of women taking part and being vocal once again after a long period of silence in which apathy, poverty and comfort took precedence over their freedoms.

Following the Arab Spring uprising, in which women became active participants, there was new hope for rights for women to be expanded under the subsequent rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. To optimists this was a good opportunity to seek to define the role of women, and celebrate how pivotal they are in the workforce and family. Instead, the role of women in society once again became the subject of much tension.

In 2012, 25 per cent of Egyptian household incomes were provided by women. This has since increased, but the acceptance of women playing a greater role in society has not.

And women are represented less in government, to the extent that only nine of the 987 women who ran for political office in 2012 were elected, according to the US State Department.

It is ironic that the role of women in toppling Mubarak was recognised and celebrated but that the post-revolution parliament was more than 91 per cent male, even if a woman did run for the presidency. The Muslim Brotherhood had a key role in subduing what had promised to be the renaissance of the Egyptian woman’s voice.

On 30 June, there was another prominent case of a woman who fought for her rights. I am not focusing on the role of feminists, I’m highlighting the role of women who are single, mothers, employees, business owners, farmers with no affiliations. Once again they took to the street to oppose the sidelining of their grievances and lack of rights under President Morsi. He lasted just one more month in power.

Whether women were protesting for the Muslim Brotherhood or against it, it is undeniable how powerful and pivotal their role has been. Are women being used to mobilise numbers and sympathies? I ask because when it comes to protecting and supporting womens’ rights, how many would truly support them?

The army and government, which took power after the overthrow of Morsi, cannot deny the role that women are playing, despite the hardships and discrimination they face. Some have said they could deliver the expansion of women’s rights that was swept under the carpet by the Muslim Brotherhood. But we are cautious. We have learnt from our previous experiences.

The role of the media and awareness is to encourage the positive contributions of women to promote their successes in all fields. Also the stigma that women are solely “caregivers” to children needs to be challenged as more women are being employed and play a key role in management positions, security, law, medicine and the civil service.

My own experience as an architect in Egypt has provided me with hope. I feel I cannot really complain; my great grandmothers were among the first to enter the education system and reached high posts in law, education and broadcasting.

My struggle didn’t begin in earnest until I chose a predominantly male sector to forge my career. The main challenge was to work on construction sites with labourers, men who don’t understand why I would subject myself to the heat and dust and long hours just to work. It puzzles them. But once the initial pride is set aside, there is no difference or obstacle to be on site. Everyone gets on with the work.

I see hope because Egyptian women are defining their role daily. We should remain focused throughout the political turmoil.

The writer is the CEO of  Sarah El Battouty Design

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager - Media Sales - £36,000 OTE

£28000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning company, whi...

Recruitment Genius: C# .NET Developer / Application Support - Junior

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This business has an industry r...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They make daily deliveries to most foodservice...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Planner

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They make daily deliveries to most foodservice...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A young person in the UK is now twice as likely to be poor as a pensioner  

Britain is no country for the young – in jobs, income or housing

Ben Chu
LaGuardia Airport: a relic from a different, gentler age  

New York's LaGuardia Airport to be rebuilt: It could become the best gateway to America

Simon Calder
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash