Side By Side

February 11, 2011

We have all spent hours now watching Egypt and it’s politically frustrated and determined population demand change. It is obvious that the ruling government for the past 30 years has suppressed its’ people. Freedoms are withheld, fear is a ruling strategy and democracy, as foreign a concept as women in positions of power. Hey, wait a minute. If it’s time for a change, might the Egyptian people consider giving women the same rights as men as part of their new strategy?

There are hundreds of thousands of people screaming, crying and begging for change. Right out in front, with their head scarves, tears and demands are the women of Egypt. They are standing alongside men, they are risking their lives for political freedom, they are using their voices for change.

Women in the Egyptian Protests

From PRI’s The World11 February, 2011 07:31:00

Women have a long history of activism in Egypt, and the current protests against Hosni Mubarak in Tahrir Square are no different.

This story was originally covered by PRI’s The World. For more, listen to the audio above.

By Ursula Lindsey

Ruheya is a 21-year-old university student. She’s come to Tahrir Square from the northern town of Sharqeya — a hundred miles away. Thursday she’s one of the volunteers monitoring the entrance to the Square, checking identification and searching bags to make sure no one brings in weapons.

“How many billions does he have, and we the people live in huts and don’t know how to feed ourselves?” Ruheya said. “There needs to be some balance. Not people at the very top and at the very bottom. I want to see democracy in my country, and I have to sacrifice for it. I have to be ready to die, to be arrested. I can’t sit at home and say: I want freedom.”

“There are Christian girls here, there are girls with their hair uncovered,” Ruheya said. “We’re all volunteers. We’re all Egyptians, whether we’re Christians or Muslims, whether we’re religious or not, we’re all good people. We’re all sacrificing for our country.”

“Women were at the forefront of the 1919 revolution in Egypt right before Egypt got its independence, in the struggle against the British; women were prominent at the time of the French occupation as well,” Ruheya said. “So Egyptian women have been involved in protests for many, many years this isn’t something new.”

But the authoritarian governments that have governed Egypt for the last 60 years have curtailed the autonomy of women’s organizations. Just as they have tightly controlled all freedoms of assembly and expression.

Women, like most Egyptians, have been frightened away from politics. Activists here say the government-backed thugs who attack protesters have singled out women, tearing their clothes and sexually molesting them.

Women make up more than half of Egypt’s university students. They are visible in the media and on the street; many work. But women rarely get the top posts in government or business. A woman’s highest ambition is still expected to be to establish a family.

And as conservative, religious movements have gained popularity, women have been pressured to stay at home and to act “modestly.” Many Egyptian women complain of constant harassment on the street.

She said the protests have re-affirmed a spirit of freedom and solidarity that has given women new breathing room.

“During the demonstrations, I didn’t face any kind of harassment or even someone looking at me in a strange way. I stayed till very late in the street, till 3 a.m., 4 a.m., and it was totally relaxing — not only safe,” Saber said. “And the interesting thing is that all people are focusing on just one goal and all things like religion and gender and ethnicity just disappeared.”

Women have long been told, by the government and even by opposition groups here, that their rights are a priority — but that economic reforms, or security concerns, or cultural considerations must come first.

But as they’ve so fully participated in the first mass protest movement in Egypt in a generation — women here have found that they don’t need to wait for anyone’s permission to be full citizens.

If women ruled the world, how everything would change?

According to former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers:

“Women should rule the world.”

That was it, the answer to my frustration and growing political alienation. It seemed so simple, so obvious. Women!

If we were in charge, things might actually change. Instead of posturing, we’d have cooperation. Instead of gridlock, we’d have progress. Instead of a shouting match, we’d have a conversation. A very long conversation. But a conversation nonetheless. Everyone would just hold hands and sing “Kumbaya.”

Or would they? What would it be like if women ruled the world, I began to wonder?

Would anything really change? Would the world be a better place? My hunch was that more women in public life would, in fact, make things better.

After all, more women already have.”

If Women Ruled the World, a 2 hr.PBS Documentary 1991

“Women are beginning to assert a distinctive approach and make a real difference as they expand their presence in the professions. This distinctive approach is generally defined as being more social, civil, collaborative, and inclusive, and it’s consistent with rising educational standards and the evolution of democracy and globalization toward greater pluralism, decentralization, transparency, and accountability.”

The time for change in Egypt is NOW. The time for change for oppressed women around the world is NOW. As the brave women of Egypt use their voices and risk their lives for yet another significant step in the history of women of the world, we see you. We hear you and support your right to be heard, to be safe and to be treated with equal respect. We know, as women of a democratic society that you are fighting in memory of the women who came before you and the young women who  will follow in your footsteps. Bravo. Bravo

How do you see that our world would be different if women safely walked ALONGSIDE men?

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5 Responses to “Side By Side”

  1. david Says:

    my partner and brilliant wife…
    every time I read one of your posts I am so impressed. I crawl into bed with you every night knowing that I am one lucky man. I hope I will never take that for granted. But, your insight into the world of “feelings” always leaves me speechless…sorry about that. You deserve to know that you make a difference in the world, none more than mine. I am grateful that I get to go thru life with you, side by side.

  2. Lisa Kaser Says:

    Great story to feature and to lead off new discussions of where women are heading and what can be accomplished when a shift in power occurs. I am feeling a shift within myself and women I know and this is THE topic of conversation. Very exciting-the possibilities ahead. When any form of discrimination is dismantled the voices and ideas that will rise up will most certainly be fresh and carry different insights-hopefully in the direction of our role as stewards to this planet and our connections to each other regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion. Peace must be the new mantra.


  3. I’m particularly moved by the “women” of Egypt. My grandparents were forced out of Cairo in 1906 because they practiced Judaism. I’m wondering if the women were in charge – would that still have happened. Of course I must consider that if they remained in the Middle East – Mom could not have met Dad – and I wouldn’t be here right now, writing this and philosophizing…thanks for posting!


  4. […] February 11, 2011 at 8:49 pm e […]

  5. Molly Says:

    You continue to inspire all you touch, and make us uncomfortable with the status quo. You remind us that we are more alike than we are different. You remind us that each of us makes a difference in the world that no one else can. You remind us of what matters again and again and again. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for using your voice to touch the world. You are truly one of my heroes and… my very most treasured friend.


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