Sunday, March 6, 2011

Egyptian Women Plan March for International Women's Day

Egyptian Women in Tahrir Square
In Egypt, where hijab is not required and interaction of the sexes is permitted, women play a larger role in society than in many other Muslim countries where women are not permitted to work along side of men or be on the street alone: (Afghanistan, Pakistan) or drive a car (Saudi Arabia).

Egyptian women were both visible and active in the taking back of Tahrir Square and, hopefully will continue to participate in re-establishing the new government. But Egyptian Women are still wary of the prospect of inclusion. Being a woman in Egypt is fraught with difficulty. Female mutilation, called circumcision is still prevalent there. According to the New York Times, 42% of Egyptian women are illiterate and almost no women are political leaders. (in Parliament women hold 8 seats out of 454). Women are routinely grabbed and subjected to unwanted touching on the streets of Cairo causing wealthier women to avoid walking downtown altogether. Women were respected and treated as equals in the euphoria and power of radiating from the uprising but the moment but it wasn't long after Mubarak resigned that the old reality began to set in. CBS Foreign Correspondent, Lara Login was set upon, stripped, punched, pinched and beaten with sticks by a rowdy mob of Egyptian men. Newspapers around the world reported that she underwent a brutal and sustained sexual assault before being rescued by a group of women and 20 Egyptian soldiers.

Now a coalition is planning a Million Women's March for Tuesday, March 8, International Women's Day. It includes the country's most recognized and outspoken feminist, Nawal el Saadawi a physician, professor and outspoken author of more than 50 books. She will turn 80 in October of this year and claims she has been ostracized from Egyptian politics her entire life due to her uncompromising stand on the position of women.

Admittedly, women, here in the USA as well as those around the globe, still have a long way to go before we see parity in both pay and political representation. Let's commemorate this International Women's Day as just one more step in the fight for freedom from suffering inflicted because of gender and to affirm the right of every person to exercise the full range of their human potential.