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

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?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

i Editor's Letter: A royal serving the nation

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko prior to the start of the European Council Summit in Brussels last month  

David Cameron talks big but is waving a small stick at the Russian bear

Kim Sengupta
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn