Thursday, April 28, 2011

First Woman in Egyptian History to run for President

Buthayna Kamel
On International Women's Day in March this year, Egyptian women took to the street to demonstrate what was clearly a shameless stride by the transitional government to continue excluding women from political participation in this new democracy. The women staged a "Million Woman March" on Tahrir Square. The same Square where they had faced tear gas, sexual assaults and harassment when demonstrating against Mubarak and his regime.  Women joined the men in one voice demanding Mubarak to step down and calling for a true and fair democracy only to turn around and find that they are now being sidelined in the new political process and were attacked by men because of raising their voices seeking to be heard.

Buthayna Kamel, a former talk-show host, has stepped out as a presidential candidate making her the first woman in Egyptian history to run for the highest office in the country. This is a brave leap of faith for Ms. Kamel considering the gender discrimination in the current Egyptian constitution. Gender rights activists in Egypt say it is important that women have a role and a voice in the new parliament and want to see women represented in the council elected by the new parliament to write a new constitution later this year. The fight for women's rights over the past decade has seen laws allowing women to divorce their husbands, pass their nationality to their children and be treated equally under tax law. However, women are still treated as second-class citizens particularly under the family law status.

The truncated timeline for holding the new elections will benefit existing organized political groups that are male-driven leaving women without a strong voice to influence a new constitution and legislation. Ms. Kamel has express her concern that she along with other women will be forced off the race because "women are supposed to stay at home". 

But the women will press on. If it means more marches then so be it. Women have to stand in solidarity. I believe that the strong women of Africa should stand alongside the women of Egypt. Most constitutions in Africa treat women as second-class citizens. This is the 21st century - let's move with the times and not be stuck in the past. Women are the back-bones of these economies. They are the mothers, daughters, sisters and wives of these men. They are now DEMANDING respect and they will be heard. They will raise their voices from the highest hills, they will not be drowned... not this time. 

Africa women UNITE!!

The Christian Science Monitor

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