CAIRO, Egypt, April 7, 2013 - On March 25, 2013, President Morsi invited over 100 women to meet with him to support his initiative on women’s rights and freedom. The invitees spanned a diverse cross-section of civil society, syndicates, organizations and political parties.
President Morsi announced to the group his primary objective was to support women’s rights and freedoms. He listed illiteracy, unemployment and sexual harassment as the primary problems currently facing Egyptian women. He noted that according to the latest statistics, 61% of women in Egypt are illiterate. Unemployment among women, especially single mothers, is more than 27%. Finally, he explained that sexual harassment not only is a current problem, but also threatens the future of women’s political/social participation. Acc
The main goal of Morisi’s initiative is to empower women, validate their role and resolve their most pressing challenges. Morsi said that the revolution of 25 January brought democracy to the country, which gives women the chances to participate in politics.
The President explained that the initiative is a response to the negative campaigns that distort the status of women in Egypt. Presidential advisor Dr. Omayma Kamel explained that the aim of the Morsi administration is to ‘view women’s challenges with new eyes,’ and that it is necessary to empower women and encourage their political participation in Parliament.
In the Parliament dissolved by a court last year, women represented only 2% of members.
The Administration assigned the National Centre for Social and Criminal Research and the participants who heard Morsi’s initiative to present an accurate study of women’s issues, based on scientific research. The three month study will include workshops and research studies discussing methods for encouraging women to participate in politics and examining opportunities to create a network to defend the rights of women across the country.
Dr. Nesreen Baghdadi, head of the NCSCR, welcomed the initiative, noting that the issue of violence against women and sexual harassment is a major problem.
Kamel pointedly denied that the initiative was in response to the 13 March declaration by the United Nations calling for an end to violence against women in Egypt. Morsi and the Islamic parties in Egypt denounced that declaration, saying it violated Sharia law and contradicts Islamic morals.
While the initiative appears to provide some recognition of the plight of women in Egypt, it is undercut by the hard-line Islamist influence, including the Islamist constitution.
In reality, Egyptian women continue to face hardship. Dr. Azza Heikal, a writer and feminist and member of the National Council for Women in Egypt noted, “Unfortunately, the role of NCW is marginalized, meetings are held, speeches are given but issues are handled bureaucratically…’
Egyptian women continue to search for solutions to resolve the ongoing problems.
Optimistic participants in President’s Morsi initiative believe there is hope as long as dialogue is open for various members of society.
However, women also hope that the initiative goes beyond studies into practical action.
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