Friday,23 February, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1223, (27 November - 3 December 2014)
Friday,23 February, 2018
Issue 1223, (27 November - 3 December 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Women at the wheel

The National Council for Women intends to support women candidates in Egypt’s upcoming parliamentary elections, reports Reem Leila

Al-Ahram Weekly

The National Council for Women (NCW) is encouraging women to participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled to take place during the first quarter of 2015. Although women participated effectively in both the 25 January and 30 June Revolutions, there have been serious fears of their under-representation in the forthcoming parliament.

The NCW has chosen 182 from among 280 women to participate in the upcoming elections, sending the list to the heads of the different political parties in order that they could be put on their lists along with male candidates. A copy of the list was sent to Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb, asking him to consider providing the women candidates with any appropriate support they may need.

Of the 182 potential female candidates 138 intend to run according to the slate system, whereas the remaining 44 will run as individuals.

Head of the NCW Mervat Al-Tellawi said the council would provide political training for women on its list. Its mandate included training women to take part effectively in elections, she said. “The political parties are required to nominate at least 30 to 50 per cent female candidates in the legislative elections. Women are no longer to be seen as marginalised players,” she added.

In order to encourage the heads of the different political parties to put female candidates on their lists, the NCW is organising a workshop to help women build their political careers. The training sessions will aim to train participants in legislative institutions, the election process and leadership skills, as well as help them acquire knowledge of economic and social issues.

“This training, and similar efforts elsewhere, provides a constructive environment to enable and empower women to participate in the decision-making process,” Al-Tellawi said.

The training programme is divided into two parts, theoretical and practical. Each training session, kicking off on 30 November, will last five days. NCW Secretary-General Mona Omar said the council would conduct one training session per month until election time. Candidates would be lectured by professionals in areas like drafting and implementing legislation, rules and procedures guiding the election process, and the theory of election systems.

The female candidate training programme would develop women’s communication skills, helping them to build effective partnerships and manage debates and seminars, she said. This was in addition to enhancing the economic and social literacy of women in order to complement the aforementioned objectives.

During the elections, the NCW will establish information centres to direct female voters and candidates to polling stations and organise programmes to increase the political awareness of women.

The NCW is not allowed to offer financial support to candidates. “All the council can do is to offer training courses to female candidates and help change the political culture which used to refuse women leadership posts. The council is stressing the importance of increasing the scope of women’s participation in all fields of life, and particularly in politics,” Omar said.

Lawyer and former judge Tahani Al-Gebali, excited about running in the upcoming elections, has not decided whether she will run as an individual or according to the slate system. “I do not need to attend the council’s training programme, as I believe I have enough experience. I faced a lot of difficulties and injustices during the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood,” Al-Gebali said.

During Brotherhood rule women lost many of the rights and privileges granted them during the rule of former president Hosni Mubarak, she said. “During the rule of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, women suffered from a very weak representation in the parliament,” she added.

However, since the toppling of Morsi women have witnessed a different era. Al-Gebali said that there was a high turnout among women in the 2014 constitutional referendum, and their yes vote testified to their political maturity.

“The women’s turnout demonstrated the steadily increasing political importance of women in Egypt and proved that they do not just represent marginal figures or votes without a specific orientation who are merely told to fill a gap,” Al-Gebali said. “Women are now participating in the formation of the country’s future.”

Another potential candidate in the upcoming elections is former minister of information Dorreya Sharafeddin, who said that women were now at the “steering wheel of society.” Their contributions to political life, “either through their nomination to parliament or their votes in elections are undoubtedly to the benefit of the whole nation,” Sharafeddin said.

According to Sharafeddin, a member of the NCW, women have struggled over recent decades to acquire equal political rights to men in order to participate in formulating national policies and lawmaking. “This participation at the grass roots level and at the policy-making level is enabling women to influence the development process and ensure that women’s problems are addressed, given priority and resolved,” she said.

Amina Noseir, a professor of Sharia Law at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, is also among the women on the NCW list and considers running in the upcoming elections to be a religious and national duty for women. “Women should continue with their struggle to gain their rights. Women are the only ones able to identify and understand other women’s needs,” Noseir said.

According to Noseir, women should play a leading role in solving the country’s problems, such as eradicating illiteracy, especially religious illiteracy, improving health, alleviating poverty and improving the economy.

Omar said that the NCW list was not prescriptive to the political parties or the government. It was designed as a guide to the best female talent, she said. “The political parties and the government should support the women on the list as they have been selected after long procedures to identify their efficiency and those who will be the best benefit to society,” Omar added.

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