March 8th 2011 was a very special International Women's Day for the women of Egypt. On the basis of the powerful uprising with participation of an unpredecented number of women and the following withdrawal of ex-president Hosni Mubarak, the women of Egypt express their demands for participation, equality and recognition in a new and reformed Egypt.
The new political situation in the Middle East especially has affected how the Western media perceive the political participation of women in the region. It has become all evident that women are active, political participants in unions, grass root organizations and in other activist movements.
See the debate between three female experts about women’s political participation: Rabab al-Mahdi, professor in politics at the American University i Cair, Frances Hasso, professor at Women's Studies at Duke University and Nadje al-Ali, social anthropologist at the University of London met at Aljazeera.net.
Karima Bennoune, professor at Rutgers School of Law and a specialist on the democracy movement, women's rights and religious extremism in the Middle East discusses the role of religion and women in reform in the Middle East with Egyptian-born Leila Ahmed. The latter is author of the forthcoming book A Quiet Revolution: The Veil's Resurgence, from the Middle East to America, professor at Harvard Divinity School. In her work she focuses on women and religion in the Middle East. They are guests in the Brian Lehrer Show at the WNYC, New York Public Radio.
The women of Egypt are finding themselves in a new position those days - hoping for the revolution to bring on much needed change of rights, but also in their newfound role as co-demonstrators, out in the streets, taking an active stand in the fight for a change.
Old and respected community members, religious and local leaders along with social networks and institutions – those are amongst the channels to go through when it comes to making a considerable difference in abandoning female genital mutilation. So it has been proved and documented in a new report published by the The Innocenti Research Center under UNICEF. The good news is that there is actually ways to change attitude and practices regarding the in many cases fatal and in all cases mentally damaging operational procedure. But as described in the report, the means to bringing down the alarmingly high figures for the practice are complex and slow in nature.
Between 70 million and 140 million
Reasons for families to insist on cutting their daughters often imply tradition, culture and religion, in spite of the fact that circumcision is not a demand in any major religion. Apart from the reasons mentioned parents or relatives can also be driven by a wish to make the girl eligible as a spouse and in this way to give her the best opportunities in her future life – a motivation that can also be addressed in the attempt to end the genital mutilation practice.
According to the UNICEF Estimates between 70 million and 140 million girls are mutilated each year. However, over the last years, the percentage of women between 15-49 years in five countries in Africa who are inclined towards keeping the practice has decreased significantly.
A database of women experts, Who Is She, was recently launched in Lebanon, and as this video shows, there is certainly a need to make highly qualified women more visible in society. The Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World (IWSAW) took a camera to the streets and asked men and women if they knew who different female experts are. Very few did!
Visit the database on http://whoisshe.lau.edu.lb/
Visit our Who Is She-group womendialogue.org
This video is in Arabic and inspired by the Danish Department of Gender Equality´s E-learning Course on "Gender Equality Assessment". The purpose of the video is to promote gender mainstreaming.
Gender mainstreaming means that gender equality work is transposed into the mainstream instead of being relegated to the sidelines. Implementation of the gender mainstreaming strategy has shifted the focus to gender quality work with a proactive approach instead of a reactive approach. Focus has thus shifted from changing inequalities once they have arisen to preventing them from arising. Moreover, it is no longer merely a question of special initiatives, but of working from a holistic approach that encompasses the gender perspective.