It occurred to me for the first time the other day, how fortunate I am. Fortunate in the sense that I have grown up in an environment where being female has not been a barrier to any of my achievements. I have always preferred to be the one telling people what to do, as opposed to being told what to do and I work hard in order to gain that authority. But like is said, only recently did I realise that my sex has never been of relevance to my success. For many women, this has not been and still is not the case.
Throughout history, women have devoted their lives to gaining equal rights. So much time, passion, energy and determination has been restlessly channelled in to trying to gain basic rights that would allow them to follow their real passions. Imagine if women were treated equally from the beginning of “man”. Just imagine if women did not have to overcome so many obstacles just because they were women. Try to envision how much those women could have contributed to society, politics and the economy if their purpose did not have to be to try and break through the exhaustingly existent glass-ceiling. With fifty per cent of the population’s minds being unremittingly oppressed, no wonder the world is as it is.
Today most exemplary of cases is the struggle for women’s rights following the Arab Spring. The revolution entailed mass solidarity and so-called democracy was achieved, but the solidarity on behalf of women in the Middle East and North Africa continues as they fight to partake in this democracy. Although women’s crucial role in the revolution is not so much denied, their political engagement in politics certainly is. On all levels women can be seen to meet exclusion in this area, displayed particularly during the event of the first post-revolution referendum on the constitution in Egypt, in which no female governors were present. With a mere two per cent of the entire Egyptian Parliament being female and just one female minister, the women of Egypt struggle to voice their say when it comes to policy-making. Those who have raised their voice have met a variety of hostile and illegitimate consequences; women’s rights activists in Egypt did not just face criticism accusing them of being ‘agents of the West’, but were detained, tortured and sexually harassed – most infamous of cases being the virginity testing incident on March 9th last year.
It is just so tedious having to witness women’s demands being incessantly dismissed as not a political priority. This was demonstrated quite clearly in 2010 by the then Judge Mahmud al-Khodeiri, who said ‘the circumstances are currently unsuitable for women to be judges. It is a bad time for judges in general right now. Let us first fix that, and then we can look into the position of women’. It is 2012, the revolution was seemingly successful and yet women are still being told it is not the right time to deal with their rights. Has it never occurred to the patriarchs that perhaps by utilising these perfectly competent women as opposed to ignoring them, these priority political issues may actually be resolved?
In the words of Hilary Clinton, ‘Egypt’s revolution was won by men and women working together, and its democracy will only thrive by men and women working together’. Women make up fifty per cent of the population and so it is just as much their democracy as it is men’s. Quite frankly we can all agree that it is unprofessional to mix business and pleasure, so why not just leave sex out of politics.