Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
1 - 7 June 2000
Issue No. 484
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

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Half a democracy

Sir- As an avid reader of your page "A Diwan of contemporary life" I found the subject of this week's instalment (Al-Ahram Weekly, 25-31 May) of great interest but the treatment disappointing. The piece begins: "On Saturday 12 January 1924, the representatives of the Egyptian electorate made their way to the polling stations in order to elect Egypt's first truly popularly elected parliament since the introduction of the parliamentary system 58 years previously." (emphasis added) The author of the column adds: "The description, 'truly popularly elected parliament' is appropriate." He then quotes from the then new electoral law: "Every Egyptian male has the right to elect members of the Chamber of Deputies and Senate" (emphasis added).

Clearly, that was not the beginning of the "first truly popularly elected parliament" in Egypt, with half of the entire population disenfranchised on the basis of gender and much of the male electorate on the basis of economic qualifications.

Certainly, women of the day did not see this as the dawn of democracy in Egypt. They had played central roles in the national liberation struggle and were outraged to find themselves put aside and deprived of their full political rights post-(partial) independence. The Wafdist Women's Central Committee and the Egyptian Feminist Union mounted a joint protest in front of the parliament gates when the new "half-parliament" opened. On this occasion they distributed a pamphlet containing the demands of Egyptian women -- a vast compendium of rights, including political rights.

In the same issue of Al-Ahram Weekly (p.16), you publish the pictures of two pioneering nationalists and feminists, Safiya Zaghlul and Huda Sha'rawi, seeming (Living) to lose the implications of their insistent call for comprehensive rights of all citizens at the time the so-called "Democracy was born." What was born was a well-organised, highly public feminist movement. In the words of Huda Sha'rawi: "When women saw the way blocked, women rose up to demand their liberation, claiming their social, economic, and political rights." Let us be clear, in 1924 only half a democracy was born.

Margot Badran
Sana'a, Yemen

Held accountable

Sir- Aziza Sami's column "A kind of accounting" (Al-Ahram Weekly (25-31 May) touched on a major weakness in Egypt's capital market: disclosure, transparency and financial communications, collectively referred to as investor relations (IR).

I am glad that the media (the few serious publications at least) is starting to realise that corporate Egypt -- with a few exceptions -- is seriously underdeveloped in the area of IR. IR is the function in listed and publicly traded companies that is entrusted with properly communicating to the investment community (institutional investors, brokers, research analysts, retail investors, banks, the business media...) all relevant aspects of the companies' performance, direction and potential. Therefore it should ensure regular, consistent and undiscriminating disclosure of the companies' development to investment stakeholders. Such developments represent both good and bad news.

It is unfortunate that you did not participate in the Investor Relations Seminar we offered last week in association with Gavin Anderson & Co (a leading international financial communications firm). Two outside speakers were also invited to present their views on IR: the chairman of the Stock Exchange and MobiNil's managing director. The topic -- presented for the first time in Egypt -- drew a crowd of about 100 participants from listed companies (unfortunately none of them privatised companies) and the capital market industry.

Our main drive behind such an event is to promote awareness of the importance of proper investor communication in corporate Egypt.

Sherif Samy
Managing director

FinRate Consulting

All readers' contributions and comments should be addressed to The Editor. Fax: +202 578 6089
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