Jun 29 2012
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Egypt's new dawn: an opportunity for women?
29 June 2012
The announcement of Mohamed Morsi as the new President of Egypt has finally severed the link with Mubarak who was ousted from power more than a year ago. However, the focus since Morsi’s election success has been on what he can’t do. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, who have been in control since Mubarak’s downfall, pushed through a decree that limits the President’s remit. This means that Morsi’s powers to act during his term as President will be curtailed compared to the Mubarak years.
There have been some horrifying stories of how women, particularly foreign women journalists, have been treated by some sections of Egyptian male society, thus the prospect of a female vice-president seems like a massive step forward for the country. It is also a bold step from Morsi. Obviously we need to get confirmation of who the woman will be, what her background is and what her remit of power is, but, if it is managed correctly, Morsi could radically change women’s’ rights in Egypt and the way females are treated by men, whether they are foreign or nationals.
It also reminded me of an article I read recently in the American magazine The Atlantic, written by Anne-Marie Slaughter. She is the former director of policy planning at the Sate Department in Washington (the first female to hold the position) who gave up her high-powered job after 2-years as she felt she couldn’t have a career in the top flight of US politics and be an adequate mother to two teenage sons. She still has a full-time career, but she is now an academic at Princeton. She believes that women can have it all (both a career and a family) but not at the same time and not in the way that America’s economy and society are currently structured.
Slaughter finishes the article with an important message: it may take a woman to hold the top position in the White House before female working conditions are changed. That is good advice, after all someone in the top political spot who also had a family, could have more empathy with the plight of many career women in the US caught between progressing in their chosen field and having a family.
A female vice-President of Egypt has a lot on her plate to ensure the country moves in the right direction over the coming years, but one of the first duties should be to change the attitudes of some Egyptian men towards women so that a healthy respect for all citizens is adopted. By protecting and championing the position of women in Egypt she could help avoid the dangers later on that talented women feel disassociated from professional life.
While the focus is likely to remain on the battle between Morsi and the Security Council for a while yet, a female vice president could quietly take her place at the top flight of government and start enacting changes that help the position of women in Egypt for this generation and for women of the future.
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