Feminism | Posted by Reem B on 07/11/2012

Women’s Suffrage in Egypt: I Thought We Established That

An Egyptian woman voting in the recent election

I live in Egypt and, contrary to what many Western people seem to believe, we live in apartments, do not use camels or horses for transportation, spend most of our time in front of T.Vs, computers, smart phones, etc and have just completed our very first free presidential elections. While that sounds great, there’s still a big problem.

Before the final results of the elections were announced, the head of the committee responsible for the elections presented the committee’s findings about some reports regarding the validity of the elections. One of the reports indicated that three voting centers in one governorate in Upper Egypt had only one voter. Three voting centers with thousands of voters registered and only one vote recorded raised concerns that someone has stopped citizens from voting. Because we are asserting our right to freedom, this could not be tolerated. The committee investigated and aired their findings: “After thorough investigations, it became clear that there is no need to worry as no citizens were deprived of their voting rights. All voters registered in those voting centers are females and as the voting percentage of males in that area matches the national average we have asserted that nothing out of the ordinary happened to endanger this election.” Apparently thousands of women not participating in an election that was the country’s sole topic of conversation over the last few months is nothing out of the ordinary.

During the West’s second wave of feminism, Hoda Shaarawi was just starting the first one here in Egypt. We managed to establish laws asserting our right to vote, yet more than half a century later, we still haven’t managed to change our patriarchal society enough to enforce this right. It is progression without progress.

I go to a school where I am encouraged to express my opinions and views, but when a debate begins about feminism, a lot of my teachers don’t think twice about saying how they believe that a woman’s rightful place is her home and how they are opposed to women having jobs and careers. When I ask them why they send their daughters to school in the first place, they say because a woman should be educated so she can raise intelligent sons. And those are the college educated, sensible and liberal people, so go figure.

We’ve come a long way. A lot of women work in almost any job they want, play sports and make their own choices in many respects. But the fact that we are still talking about women’s suffrage in the 21st century kind of offsets other progress we’ve made, don’t you think?

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  • Andrea @ at 5:10 pm, July 20th, 2012

    Thanks for your post. I am appalled by the misogyny of Egypt. From the gang rape of Western journalists, to the attack on Egyptian women protesters in Tahrir Square, to the disrespect that Egyptians showed the Secretary of State of the United States: its pretty clear that being a woman in Egypt is not something I would ever want to be.

    But what recourse is there? What can you do to change a culture that is so corrupt, so sexist, and so disgusting?

  • Chloe H. @ at 2:33 pm, July 26th, 2012

    This post has really opened my eyes. I never realized that women are still facing oppression in Egypt. Although what is happening is definitely not positive for the feminist movement, we do have to remember how much society has evolved, and that it still is, hopefully for the better.

  • jack spratt @ at 12:04 pm, July 4th, 2013

    Switzerland didn’t give women the vote until 1971, France 1944, US 1920. In opposing feminist the Muslims are not being corrupt but being faithful to their religious heritage. A lot of people cite the sexism of Muslim societies as an excuse to invade or subvert them. But would we have had the right to invade Switzerland in 1970?

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