Friday,15 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1227, (1-7 January 2015)
Friday,15 December, 2017
Issue 1227, (1-7 January 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Promoting women’s participation

The National Council for Women is discussing ways of supporting women in the upcoming parliamentary elections, reports Reem Leila

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The National Council for Women (NCW) held a conference on 29 December in Cairo attended by the heads of the country’s different political parties to support women in the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled to take place during the first quarter of 2015.

The percentage of female representation in the upcoming parliament is expected to be better than that of the parliament during the rule of toppled former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, though the issue of women’s representation has been discussed for many years. 

Although women gained political rights in 1956, their representation in the parliament has remained unsatisfactory. Women have been fighting for decades to increase their representation in parliament, yet the results of these efforts have not allayed concerns about their percentage in the upcoming parliament.

Head of the NCW Mervat Al-Tellawi said that of the parliament’s 567 seats, 70 of them were expected to go to women, with President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi appointing 14 of them.

“This means that 13 per cent of parliamentary seats will be reserved for women. This percentage is almost satisfactory, since it is the highest in decades, yet we still want to see women occupy 50 per cent of the seats,” Al-Tellawi said.

The NCW had long battled to provide women with their political rights, she said. “Finally, we are about to harvest what we have been cultivating since the creation of the council in 2000,” Al-Tellawi added.

 The parliamentary elections law stipulates that women’s representation within the political parties list should not be specified in terms of numbers, though the law requires maintaining a minimum representation of nearly 50 per cent.

According to Rifaat Al-Said of the Al-Tagammu Party, half of the 120 seats reserved for the slate voting system should go to women. “At least 45 women will compete on the remaining 420 seats allocated for the individual voting system. The president will then appoint 27 members, where almost half of them are expected to be women,” Al-Said said.

The approval of the new electoral districts law has encouraged more women to run for individual seats. “Their number has increased from only 15 to 45,” said Al-Tellawi, adding that women had played a leading role during the 25 January and 30 June Revolutions.

“Article 11 of the 2014 constitution which stipulates that the state is committed to taking the necessary measures to ensure an appropriate representation of women in the parliament is a way of honouring women,” Al-Said added.

The Council is making efforts to ensure that women have suitable representation in the next parliament. Safaa Habib, responsible for the political portfolio at the NCW, said that it was contacting international organisations in order to provide female nominees with the logistical support they needed to guarantee their success.

Habib said that the Council had formed a committee and chosen 132 of the 280 women who wanted to participate in the upcoming parliamentarian elections to do so. The selected women had been trained on legislative institutions, the electoral process, campaigning and leadership skills as well as general knowledge of economic and social issues, she said.

A list of the trained women had been sent to the heads of the different political parties in order to put them on their lists alongside other male candidates, she added.

Amr Abdel-Hamid, head of the Misr Party, explained the Party’s plan to support women in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. Since the Party’s creation it had been training female leaders in rural and urban areas for political life, he said, and was targeting young female professionals in the future.

“Part of the Party’s mandate is to fully support women in the political, social, economic and cultural fields as they comprise 49 per cent of Egypt’s population. It is about time that women were given the rights they deserve,” Abdel-Hamid said.

The political parties had agreed to provide women with the support they required, he said. According to the parliamentary elections law, individual candidates are required to pay LE3,000 in insurance fees, while candidates running on lists have to pay double this amount.

“For female nominees who won’t be able to pay these fees, the political parties are coordinating with the NCW to pay these amounts instead, in order to encourage women to nominate themselves,” Abdel-Hamid said.

Nagi Al-Shehabi, head of the Al-Geel Party, said he was cautious about putting women on the Party’s list. “We need to nominate the qualified and the trustworthy in order to encourage the public to vote for them,” Al-Shehabi said.

Meanwhile, conference attendees stressed the importance of the media’s role in the elections. Presenter of the Al-Hayat satellite channel Amr Al-Leithi urged the council to provide women with proper training programmes to teach them how to deal with the media, for example.

Al-Leithi blamed the media for ignoring women candidates and not providing them with proper exposure. “Starting this week I will dedicate part of my show to female candidates, in order to help them present their electoral programmes. I will also conduct debates between male and female candidates, so as to give women an equal chance to men to introduce themselves to the public,” Al-Leithi said.

The media must play a greater role in introducing women to the public, he said. “In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman,” Al-Leithi commented, quoting former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

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