Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
7 - 13 September 2000
Issue No. 498
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New support for women

By Reem Leila

The National Council for Women (NCW), highlighting the importance of the political empowerment of women in the developmental process, is encouraging women to both vote and stand for election in the forthcoming People's Assembly elections. According to its secretary-general Mervat Tellawi, the NCW will also follow up the implementation of public policies on women's issues, suggest reforms and advise the concerned authorities.

The NCW, established in March, hopes that as many as 200 women will contest the upcoming elections, expected to begin in the second half of October, compared to 87 in the 1995 ballot. Then only five were elected, but President Hosni Mubarak, using his constitutional right, appointed four others. The nine made up 1.6 per cent of parliament's membership. Tellawi hopes that female representation will make up as much as 10 per cent of the new Assembly which consists of 444 elected members and 10 appointees. "The Council is impressing on people the importance of increasing the scope of women's participation in all walks of life, and particularly in politics," she said.

According to Tellawi, the NCW is putting "official and unofficial" pressure on the various political parties to nominate as many women candidates as possible, who will be trained by the NCW in how to run election campaigns. "Highly qualified professionals will be commissioned to train female nominees in how to confront their opponents and emerge victorious," she added.

However, the NCW is waiting for political parties officially to announce the names of their candidates before taking action.

Some female hopefuls, unaware of that fact, believed the NCW was proving reluctant to provide support.

Nariman El-Daramalli is an employee at the People's Assembly who hopes to be on the candidates' list of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP). "I was encouraged by my family and people in Tema (Suhag governorate) as well as by Mrs Suzanne Mubarak's call on women to participate, both as voters and candidates," she explained. "Although the atmosphere is encouraging, I was expecting greater support, particularly financial support, from the NCW."

Another hopeful, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that she had asked the NCW for "a certain amount of money" to finance her campaign, but was turned down on the grounds that the Council has no budget. "What I would like to know is what is the use of the Council if it does not support me properly?" she wondered.

Amna Nusseir, who is planning to run in Assiut, said: "The NCW has been doing a great job since its establishment. We were told that we would be supported, but I don't know when this support will materialise."

According to Tellawi, once political parties announce their lists of candidates, all females on the lists will be supported by the NCW regardless of their political affiliation. One form of this support, she said, will be paid newspaper advertisements publicising platforms.

Jihan El-Halafawi is a candidate of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood standing for election in Alexandria. Tellawi said the NCW is prepared to support her on condition that "she supports women and their cause and makes a sincere effort to solve women's problems."

El-Halafawi reacted gleefully. "Of course, I am going to ask for the Council's help," she said. "Why not benefit from their experience and resources?"

The NCW's efforts will be financed by donations from businessmen and businesswomen, Tellawi added.

The NCW will not only back female candidates, but also female voters, helping those who do not have IDs get them by organising _ in cooperation with the interior and local administration ministries _ mobile civil registry units. People who do not have voting cards will be able to use their IDs to cast ballots.

The NCW will also set up information centres to guide female voters to their polling stations and organise programmes for "increasing their political awareness," a Council source said.


Related stories:
Parliament with a difference? 31 August - 6 September 2000
Brothers forward a new image, and a sister 31 August - 6 September 2000
Celebrating in diversity, seeking unity 16 - 22 March 2000
A women's council 20 - 26 January 2000

 

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