Arab Spring…a female perspective

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Yesterday, I spent an hour and a half at a talk entitled “Arab Spring: Voices of Women.” So often, the Arab Spring that truly started in December 2010 when a street vendor set himself on fire in Cairo, Egypt’s Tahrir Square is not thought about from a gendered perspective. So often, the news media talk about the Arab Spring as a whole without ever asking “well, what about the women? How were they affected and was it different from the men.”

The session was sponsored by the United States Federation for Middle East Peace so it had a definite US agenda, but moderator did a good job framing the Arab Spring that was definitely positive for women, both because of the outcome and because of their political participation.

Women felt liberated to step away from home and speak about injustice. This has broad implications for good in the world – women have merit and they deserve to be listened to.

The most interesting speaker was a woman who was actually at Tahrir Square for most of the protests. She said women were instrumental in combating the violence and that during the 18 days of protest, there was not one act of violence between the protesters. One thing to come out of the revolution was that there is a reconstruction of the national concept of “women.”

For first time in history, a female is running for president, who we hope would win.

At the same time, she is under no impression that the gains made will be sustainable.

This is a transitional state and a lot of issues need political, economical and democratical corrections.Woman realize a bitter truth: women were pushed away from decision-making and are pushed to the margins. It appears the women’s role is being diminished in Egypt; the constitution correction committee had no women and there are no woman holding high positions in the government save for one.

She said it is up to the women to push for the continuation of their rights, otherwise, the Arab Spring will be beneficial only to the men.

Egyptian women living in fear of losing all the rights they gained during the revolution… Equality is not up for discussion. Our duty now is to stop anyone from taking the rights we gained from us.

Other sessions yesterday included a “conversation circle” about Human Rights with other women from around the world (ok, US and Canada) which turned into more of a business card handout session and a session on the empowerment of LGBT folks in rural environments around the world. More on that one when I get time.

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