Leading Egyptian women’s rights activists called on newly elected President
Mohamed Mursi on Monday to appoint women to his cabinet and to increase women’s
representation in government ministries.
Mursi, who was sworn in as
president on Saturday, has previously pledged to include women in his new
Last week, Mursi told newspaper editors that he had no plans
to restrict women’s rights, while his policy adviser, Ahmed Deif, told CNN that
one of the new president’s first steps will be to appoint a Christian vice
president and a female vice president.
Yet there are concerns among some
women’s groups that a Muslim Brotherhood president could result in Egypt moving
closer to Islamist states like Iran and Afghanistan.
On Monday, Dr. Azza
Kamel, the leader of Cairobased NGO Parliament of Women, told al-Watan News that
women’s leaders want to arrange a meeting with Mursi to talk about women in the
new cabinet and women’s role in the drafting of a new
Parliament of Women works to build the capacity of women in
local and national government, as well as raise awareness and mobilize public
opinion about women’s roles in drafting Egypt’s new constitution.
told al-Watan that in Mursi’s four speeches as president, he had not addressed
women directly but had referred to “men of Egypt” and only later had said he was
talking about both men and women.
In a pre-election speech, Mursi
declared that “the Koran is our constitution, [and] the prophet is our leader,”
raising fears that he would seek a constitution based on Shari’a (Islamic
Although Mursi himself has preached unity and inclusiveness, his
Freedom and Justice Party – an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood – formally
asserts that “Egypt is a civil state with an Islamic reference” According to a
statement from the party, Egypt’s constitution must state that Shari’a law
should be applied “in all walks of life,” because Shari’a “is the source of
wisdom and divine mercy, and as a response to the demands of the majority of the
Egyptian people who believe that the Shari’a is the best method to ensure the
reformation of the conditions of our society that will lead it to happiness and
However, the new president’s powers to influence the new
constitution have been reduced. On June 17, after voting closed in the runoff
elections, Egypt’s military junta announced a constitutional declaration that
grants them wide powers, including the authority to draft a new
Kamel added that if Mursi adopted the political platform of
his Freedom and Justice Party, it would mean “a loss of rights for Egyptian
women who contributed greatly to the [Egyptian] revolution.”
Dr. Hoda Badran, the chairman of the Egyptian Women’s Union, commented to
al-Watan that because of Mursi’s background – including in the Muslim
Brotherhood – it would be hard for him to change his attitude toward
Badran said Mursi had an obligation to fulfill his promises to
appoint a woman vice president and to increase the number of women working in
The feminist leader told al- Watan she was
concerned that there could be a decline of women’s rights in Egyptian society if
the president followed the policies of his Freedom and Justice
More than 1,000 women’s organizations cooperated to reestablish
the Egyptian Women’s Union last year. On Monday, the organization began a
campaign on Facebook and Twitter to encourage women to tell Mursi what they
expected of him as president.
The initiative, dubbed “I Demand from the
President,” calls on women to send their demands to Mursi to be presented to him
on July 13.
“Did you know that Egyptian women make up 40% of Egypt’s
households? Did you know that half of Egyptians live below the poverty line and
that two-thirds of them are women!!!” the campaign’s mandate reads.
President, I don’t want your protection, because I’m not weak, but I want my
full rights,” “I demand equal citizenship,” “Women’s rights are human rights”
and “My voice is not awrah [an Islamic concept meaning the parts of the body
that should be covered] – my voice is revolution, revolution,” were some of the
messages women posted on Monday.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, prominent Egyptian
women’s rights activist Nihad Abu al- Qumsan, said a third of Mursi’s new
cabinet should be women.
Speaking on Nile Television Network’s Naharak
Saeed morning program, Qumsan, who heads the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights
(ECWR), said that women would be well suited to the health, tourism, finance,
economics, international relations and education ministries.
Egyptian women’s activists want a role in Mursi’s government,
Speaking to the Aswat Masriya election news site on Monday,
activist Rabab al- Mahdi, who worked as a political counselor for expresidential
candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, said she would not accept a cabinet post
and preferred to stay in the opposition.
Al-Mahdi, a political science
professor at the American University in Cairo, dismissed as “unfounded” women’s
fears that an Islamist president may impose restrictions on
“Egypt’s problem is not the veil but there is certainly a problem
related to the status of women in Egypt,” al- Mahdi told Aswat Masriya.