The political participation of Egyptian woman between reality and ambition

The political participation of Egyptian woman between reality and ambition

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Despite the wide changes that have taken place in the Egyptian society over the last few years and the cultural, social and revolutionary transfers, but the matter has not yet touched a number of issues and societal cases , including the issue of the role of women and empowering her politically and equality between her and man
Women’s participation in elections has been remarkable since 2012, and the Constitution of 2014 guarantees equality for her with men in all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. It also guarantees the right to assume public office and senior administrative positions in the state, and appointment in judicial authorities without discrimination against her. But what is the reality? Has this equality really been achieved?

First: Women and electoral participation
Electoral participation is a form of political participation that takes different forms and levels, electoral voting, participation in election campaigns and working for a candidate or political party are all different levels of this participation.
Women accounted for 49% of the voting bloc in Egypt, with an average of 25 million electoral votes. This percentage enabled it to become one of the decisive cards in the elections. So she intended to invest in it and sought to enhance its political participation in the various electoral entitlements, whether presidential or parliamentary, until it became Egypt’s winning card.
This is evident with the presidential elections in 2012. The rate of voting according to official statistics is about 50% and the pace of political participation in various benefits has continued to rise since then, whether at the level of election or candidacy.

On the electoral level, the vote in the referendum on the Constitution of 2014 was about 55%, and the women settled the race for the President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi in the presidential elections in 2014 by 54%.
In the parliamentary elections in 2015, women topped the election scene in the first stage, and the percentage of women voters of ladies and girls reached to 55%. Thus, the political participation of women has increased significantly compared to the rates of participation before 2012.
Prior to that year, political participation was minimal, with only 33% of the total participation in the presidential elections in 2005. In general, women were generally absent from political participation. According to an IPU study in 2008, Egypt ranked 134 out of a total of 188 countries, accounting for only 2%.
The World Economic Forum (WEF)also stressed in its report on the “Global Gender Gap” on the low status of women in Egypt; Egypt at the level of political empowerment to rank 124 out of 130 among the countries covered by the report, and she ranked 122 regarding the status of women in Parliament.

Candidacy level: The recent parliamentary elections in 2015 witnessed a significant increase in the proportion of female candidates. With 949 candidates out of 5,518, constituting 17.19%.
The Constitution also gave a great distinction to women, which helped to make this parliament the largest parliaments in the history of Egyptian parliamentary life in terms of the number of female deputies. The number of women in the Council is about 90 deputies, of which 76 are elected in addition to 14 women are appointed, by 15% of all members.
While women showed their seriousness in the process of political participation by election and candidacy, they proved their ability to assume responsibility within the Council. This was shown through the introduction of laws and serious discussion of many issues and legislation related to women’s rights, the most important of which are amendments to the circumcision penalties and the Women’s Right law to Inheritance.
Not only did it extend to the Council, it also extended to many institutions, especially the National Council for Women. The Council’s activities witnessed several draft laws on women and their rights, the most prominent of which was the Violence against Women and Personal Status Law, the draft law against the marriage of minors, and many others.

Second: Women and Political Empowerment
Just as women played an important role in the political process, they also played a role in President Sisi’s speeches and meetings from the moment he declared victory in the first term. On more than one occasion, he expressed his appreciation and evaluation to the women of Egypt and described them in various speeches as “the greatness of Egypt. He also stressed in more than one place that the State gave special attention to women. Promising to have a fair share in the House of Representatives, executive positions in the state, and overcome the obstacles in front of them in parliamentary posts.
These promises have already been translated into a number of actual steps on the ground. Where the judiciary first appointed in February 2015 women as “judges of the platform. The woman also came to the post of governor and head of the neighborhood in a precedent is the first of its kind in Egypt.
The share of women in ministerial work increased by 8 ministries in the current government (health, environment, culture, tourism, investment and international cooperation, planning, follow-up and administrative reform, immigration and affairs of Egyptians abroad) with a rate 20%of the government . This is the first time in Egypt’s history.
This step was one of the most important gains of women during the first term. Previously, the appointment was done to achieve the goals of the appearance and form, where a seat or two seats are allocated to women to show the state as if interested in women and political empowerment.
This was evident in successive governments, as in 2005, where they did not exceed 3.8%, the government of 2010 in which women represented 3.6%, and the government of 2012, where representation decreased to 2.8%. Now, with six women holding ministerial posts in one government, this is a major shift forward and evolving in the perception of women’s ability and role in society.
In the same context, President Sisi announced the year 2017 as the “Year of Women”, where several initiatives were launched to empower women politically and economically, the most important of which is the “Egyptian Women’s Strategy 2030” aiming at empowering women in various fields. And the campaign of Taa Marbouta aiming to enhance its role and no surrender to the society’s look at her and her position .This is in addition to the allocation of an amount nearly 2 billion pounds annually to address violence against women.
It should be noted that support for women did not stop at this level, but also extended to moral support .The President was keen to receive and honor many women, as happened in July 2014, when he visited the girl who was harassed in Tahrir Square, promising to hold the perpetrators accountable. He met the Iraqi Yazidi girl, Nadia Murad, who had been captured by the Da’ash organization. This is in addition to his meeting with many women who donate their money to the Fund of Long Live Egypt.

Third: Challenges and fears
Despite this support, the road is not yet complete. There are still many challenges facing the empowerment of women politically, the most prominent of which can be summarized in a number of points:
(1) Although women receive 15% of the total number of members of the House of Representatives, this percentage is weak at the global level. Which means that the challenge of political participation and access to fair proportions at the higher political levels will still exist.
(2) Egypt is still ranked among the worst 10 countries in the field of gender equality, according to the 2015 World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report, and there are still many jobs reserved for men, such as the State Council, women are excluded from holding positions in the Council. In general, the ratio of women to leadership positions in Egypt is not satisfactory and inappropriate compared to Arab countries where Egypt is ranked 14th in assuming position .
(3) Despite the president’s interest in assuming new positions for women, this does not mean that there is a strategy and public policies in the country to escalate. It is still limited to being a grant from the presidency and the absence of public policies to improve the situation of women that makes any vigorous steps taken in this regard ineffective. .
(4) The efforts of the National Council for Women (NCW) are still flawed. There is not enough awareness of his activities, and there is a general impression that it is of an elitist nature, that is, dealing with the elite rather than ordinary people in society, which is a barrier between it and the spread of its various campaigns and the last is the Taa Marbouta Campaign , Also, despite the State’s issuing of a national strategy to combat violence against women over a year ago, this strategy still lacks monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.
(5) In general, factors that impede the political empowerment of women so that they can be monitored in three groups relate primarily to the societal and cultural context in which they live, where important considerations such as customs and traditions arise. The second group relates to the formation of Egyptian women and their conviction of their ability to public work and their belief in the importance of their political role. There is still a significant sector of women who are not enthusiastic about women’s political role, and therefore find it disappointing for women and vote for men in any elections. Polls also show that women are not ready to compete men in public work.

Finally, it is not only about the promotion for women and the need to expand opportunities in front her , but it is largely associated with the existing legal frameworks that do not fully protect their rights, as well as the masculine look to her and its social implications that go beyond equality debates to the non-fulfillment of their legitimate rights . Talking about the promotion of women’s access to decision-making positions is not only a matter of ensuring quantitative representation, but also of achieving a clear qualitative shift in the integration of women’s issues into all development efforts and public policies.

Dina Helmy
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies