What I know for certain is that this uprising will forever alter the position of women in Egypt. What I don’t know is how. Political unrest impacts disempowered communities differently—both positively and negatively.
Here are some trends that I am watching:
Women are key actors in this movement.
Women are protesting side by side with men. Renowned Egyptian feminist and human rights activist Nawal El Saadawi reported from Cairo, “Women and girls are beside boys in the streets…We are calling for justice, freedom and equality, and real democracy and a new constitution, no discrimination between men and women, no discrimination between Muslims and Christians, to change the system… and to have a real democracy.”
Young women, in particular, were instrumental in initiating the protests–inspiring men to speak out.
Asmaa Mahfouz has been credited with sparking the fire with her YouTube video posted several weeks ago calling for a protest to bring down Mubark and his regime.
The secular, rights-based impetus for the protest may not remain central during a political transition.
I am watching the developments and hoping that the spirit of the protests perseveres the volatility of this political process. Both Scott Atran and Carrie Rosefsky-Wickham cautioned against the misunderstanding and over-simplification of secular and religious political factions. However, the ascendance of a fundamentalist regime would have a negative impact on women in Egypt and the region.
This has turned into a humanitarian crisis. When food and other resources are scarce, women and girls loose out.
Gender inequalities are exacerbated during crisis. This is true of natural disasters, war and political uprisings.
This historic moment in Egypt will change the country and the region. While I don’t know how this will impact women in Egypt, I do know that attention matters. We will continue to monitor the situation and report findings from our four Spark members in Cairo and other partners on the ground.