Egyptian Women of Power @nsaadawi @bothainakamel1 @ghadasha @naglarzk @masrawya_magda3 @Nermbed
Date posted: March 11, 2013
Name: Dr. Nawal El Saadawi
Occupation: Writer, activist, physician, and psychiatrist.
In December 2011, I wrote this in my online journal:
Let's assume that we have real elections. Let's assume that candidates are free to be nominated. Let's assume that we are allowed to vote. Let's also assume that before we vote, we get to see real live debates where each candidate actually discusses his electoral program and his opponent tries to refute him/her using logic not bullying and high school defamation! Let's assume that Nawal El Saadawy is running for Presidency in 2011!
Yes! Why not? Here are the reasons why I give her my full support:
She is Egyptian; 100% Egyptian. She was born in Kafr Tahla village and led the life of an ordinary lower middle class Egyptian girl. She knows the "good girl" unspoken code, the failing traditions, and the pressure of living in a patriarchal society. She made it to Cairo University and studied medicine. She had more aspirations; continued her studies in Columbia University. Her eagerness for knowledge is unquenchable; she studied psychiatry later on in Ain Shams University. So far this makes her a hard working woman who found her way out of the village.
Through her writings, she fought female genital mutilation (FGM), disfiguring newly born males (male circumcision), violence against women in all its forms; emotional abuse, verbal manipulation, or actual physical violence, child abuse that starts with the abuse of children born outside of wedlock, all forms of hypocrisy in the name of religion, the notion of turning religion into a series of void rituals, politicizing God, commercializing religion, auctioning heaven and hell and the afterlife, and oppressing women in the name of God. This makes her a hero; an enlightened soldier fighting the forces of darkness
This is a woman who has been imprisoned, exiled, threatened, and bullied into silence – but she never caved in. Nawal El Saadawy is a woman who abides by an intimidation-proof code of ethics.
She has contributed more than 40 publications that include short stories, novels, plays, scientific papers, and nonfiction books. Her books were translated into more than 30 languages all over the world, and some of them are taught in a number of universities in different countries and I am saying she should run for president. I grew up hearing that she was crazy. Her name had an outcast stigma associated with it. I outgrew their words as I read hers and I realized that she is now where I want to be in 150 years!
They told her: "You are a savage and dangerous woman."
She replied: "I am speaking the truth. And the truth is savage and dangerous."
"My mission in life is to unveil the veiled mind! To break all those locks and free the thoughts! Since the 70s Egypt has been the victim of a conspiracy to veil the Egyptian mind and to imprison the freedom of its thoughts. Fear and mental terrorization were used in the process of curbing the powers of creative imagination. Millions were spent to back up this process of darkness and the result was a country that is lagging behind … Egypt is now at the very end of the race! This is a conspiracy that has been woven to perfection from the inside and the outside simultaneously! Who is paying those people? Who is financing that organized effort? This is my fight! I fight darkness and conspiracy to achieve light and freedom!" explained Dr. Nawal El Saadawi
For the past 60 years, Dr. Nawal El Saadawi has supported women and urged her to fight for her rights! In all of her books, a real woman is strong, fearless, determined, and liberated of societal fears and prejudices! This is her message to women: "Use your own brain! Think! Think for yourself! Arm yourself with books! Read a lot and analyze everything that you read! Open yourself to philosophy and the words of different thinkers! The first book I read was for Abu El Alaa El Ma'ary and I still remember his words: People are two types; those who have beards and no brains and those who have brains and no breards!" concluded Dr. Saadawi.
Name: Bothaina Kamel
Occupation: Prominent media figure
Other than her controversy-raising radio and TV shows, her regular conflicts with media and government officials, her unmistakable appearances in protests against corruption and injustice, and her clear pro-democracy stance, Bothaina Kamel has advocated so many causes that directly tap into the daily Egyptian life; in the 90s she brought forward the often neglected issue of the environment, pollution, and drained national wealth resources. She was the first to shed light on the misery of street children and their growing troubles! She was immersed in Egyptian traditions, beliefs, customs, rituals, and ways of living when she toured Egypt and studied the habits and beliefs of its people from North to South. In 2000 she was one of the founding members of "Shayfenkom Movement" and "Egyptians Against Corruption" both aiming at monitoring elections and reporting incidents of violence, fraud, or corruption. In 2011 she was nominated as President! "There always has to be a first time." She says. "My nomination was a loud righteous call for women's right to occupy any post including the presidency!"
So when Dr. Nawal El Saadawi did not run for office, Bothaina Kamel did! and I gave her my vote!
Today she is also on the frontlines speaking up against violations and crimes committed by post revolution authorities – be it the Supreme Council of Armed forces, the President, the Ministry of Interior, other ministries and minister, or individual abusers of their power! She is there in full support of the victims and injured to the revolution (January 2011, January 2012, and January 2013). Bothaina Kamel has mastered the power of social media networks just as well as she has manipulated mainstream media to fight for the rights of Egyptians to lead humane lives!
In the memory of the One Million Women March to Tahrir last year, this is an excerpt from Identity Magazine's coverage of Bothaina's stance:
She’s one of the founders of “The Egyptian Women for Change” (EWC), which is a political female network that was developed in March 2010. It is a new initiative that is working on becoming a lobby group advocating for women’s issues, raising political awareness for women, lobbying and negotiating with decision-makers about the different political and civil rights for women. The group was officially established after Mohammed El Baradei’s call for Egypt’s reform. Its main founders, along with Bothaina Kamel, are Gamila Ismail, Shahenda Meqled and Azza Kamel, who were already active together in many other political associations. Through their personal connections, these political activists brought together several other women, who didn’t have to be involved directly in politics, but who were interested in political participation after the emergence of a women’s movement that calls for democratic reforms. Kamel participated in the “Million Women March” in Tahrir. She went to show her great solidarity and support for the cause. She said to the Daily News that women are calling for three main things: “participation, equality and respect.”
Upon addressing Egyptian women, Bothaina Kamel tells them to be proud of who they are! "You are a strong willful woman! You have raised a whole generation of girls who will never give up their birthrights of dignity and equality! You, your daughter, and your granddaughter were out there in the front lines fighting for social justice and freedom! The whole world saw you and saluted your strength! I know that you are patient and perseverant; I know that you are an equal breadwinner if not the sole person who puts food on the table; I know that you are a fighter, my dear lady and I am asking you to hang on in there; we will win the battles of darkness and lost rights! Keep fighting … no one will fight on our behalf!"
Name: Ghada Shahbandar
Occupation: Fulltime mother
This remarkable human being has been busy raising 4 lovely kids who are now all grownup and independent! In the meantime, Ghada has several careers including marketing, translation, scriptwriting, and teaching English as a foreign language. In 2005 Ghada's sense of justice and societal harmony was offended by the ugliness of Egyptian politics! Since then, she has made it her mission to defend and advocate human rights! Sacrifices had to be made; not all employers appreciate having an outspoken member of the opposition and a field activist on board! For example, Ghada used to teach in a reputable university "but the board was concerned that I was corrupting the minds of youth based on state security report so I relieved them of the burden and resigned!"
In 2005 Nawal Ali, a journalist was battered and stripped off of her clothes in the street in front of the press syndicate! "I did not want my children to grow up thinking that was acceptable" said Ghada. "One week after that horrible incident, I was standing in front of the press syndicate with my white ribbon demanding an official apology from the Minister of Interior!" This was the beginning of the Ghada Shahbandar that we know now!
Shortly afterwards, in June 2005, "Shayfenkon Movement" was founded and Ghada became the movement's spokesperson. The team monitored the presidential and parliamentary elections, monitored the independence of the judiciary campaign, and led the efforts against corruption until the end of 2006 when the movement registered as an NGO and started a program for civic education. In 2007, they witnessed, supported, and monitored the first wave of workers strikes. "Pressure from State Security and drained human resources, Shayfenkom was put to rest by the middle of 2008! We paid in time, money and effort but eventually the founders and members lost hope!" commented Ghada.
This was a new beginning for Ghada's flied work as a human rights defender; in 2008, she was elected as a member of the board of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights and she has been active with them since then. "This is not an honorary position" Ghada said, "I continued monitoring elections and supporting anti-corruption movements, plus a wider scope of human rights and lost freedoms."
Today, Ghada is involved in initiatives like "Mosireen" and she volunteered with Operation End Sexual Harassment offering legal and psychological assistance to victims.
"Once you get that deeply immersed in activism, you can never go back to who you were before! In 2007, I had the urge to document the violations and the crimes that we monitored as Shayfenkom. There was so much to be told and commercial mainstream cinema was missing it all! It was time for independent cinema." explained Ghada how she wrote her two movie scripts."The first was taken by Director Mohamed Khan and the second ended up with Director Sherif El Bendary but both are still waiting for production funds!" added Ghada.
Ghada the scriptwriter is very proud of her work; "commercial movies do not want the audience to see the reality; they are made with the intention of numbing the senses and distracting the viewer from the real world – even if they have glimpses of the truth they are never intended to revolutionize thoughts. They simply do not promote my values and beliefs! I believe that filmmaking is a tool for spreading culture and knowledge."
Ghada's message to Egyptian women is "This is a revolution against patriarchal authoritarianism! Women and youth have been constantly marginalized by one military regime after the other, and the religious right! Women and youth own this revolution!"
Name: Nagla Rizk
Occupation: Professor of Economics at AUC
At a time when the Egyptian government is about to pay Microsoft more than 40 million dollars for software licenses and other products, Nagla Rizk has dedicated her career to promoting open source software and saving precious money in the process! Before the revolution Nagla says that she was interested in gender-neutral causes "like freedom of knowledge and information, moving against intellectual propriety, and focusing on business models that rely on open access to knowledge." Nagla believes that knowledge and information should be out there for everyone to access and use, and that there is a solid front of open source software to make that possible – it is just that people don't know about them yet!
After revolution, Nagla continued to fight for freedom of information until she openly clashed with Ahmed Mekki, the Minister of Justice on television!
The Daily News Egypt wrote in detail what happened when Mekki insisted on denying the systematic torture by the Ministry of Interior and insisted that the media falsified reports!
Rizk explained that they had been invited to participate in the committee working on the drafting of the Information Act and were happy to receive the invitation. She added that they have had experience working on the previous draft of the act that was submitted to the former parliament which was dissolved in 2012.
The meeting began at 10:30. Rizk said the talks held were not clear on reason or purpose, and that the minister had spoken at length about how the media lies and justifying the protest law that is still in the works. “The minister kept talking about how there is no systematic torture at this time, which is infuriating given the events of the past week,” she added.
“We are not here to listen to his lectures,” Rizk said, adding that if it was a call for political discussion, it should have been a two-way conversation. “We are here to discuss the law, not to listen to the minister talk about how good the current government is and the value of the Muslim family.”
“It felt to me that what was happening was so distant from the reality,” Rizk said, adding that people are entitled to their points of view, “but facts are unquestionable”.
Rizk stressed that it was important to remember the victims of torture. “We are not the heroes here,” she said. “It is extremely painful that people are dying of torture at the hands of the police, and this goes unacknowledged and unaccounted for by the ministry.”
The activist professor has now adopted the shameful behavior of sexual harassment and gang harassment! She thinks "it's a reflection of how society views women! All those hands that are violating women are trying to keep her locked up at home, out of the job market, away from the political scene, and under the custody of male guardians." The sexual violation of women is just the other side of the coin of the Egyptian constitution. A constitution that marginalizes women, a parliament that has minimal representation of women, and voting lists that insist on using women as opposed to making use of them!
Nagla adamantly asks Egyptian women to "raise her children – girls and boys – equally. The boys do not have supremacy over the girls!" If the boys feel such unjustified superiority, they will grow up into abusive males! They will allow themselves to violate the rights of women in their close circle and women who are total strangers out of this false sense of superiority and righteousness! As for the girls, Nagla tells them "You are a human being! Do not accept to be treated otherwise!"
Name: Lubna Moharram
Occupation: Power Engineer, Director of Operations in a Facility Management Company
In addition to being a wife and mother, Lubna has been involved in community services and social development for more than 18 years! Before the revolution, she dedicated her time, power, and funds to women! She worked on issues such as poverty, illiteracy, domestic violence victims, and other forms of abuse tolerated by women! There was always an emphasis on widows and women who are the sole providers for their families; Lubna helped them start up little projects that would help them put bread on the table.
At times, Lubna would encounter a bright student who has a chance but does not have the means to continue his education. She would approach his family and take care of his education! Lubna Moharram has also been involved with raising money for people with chronic illnesses who need regular yet expensive medication but her main passion was working with women; empowering them, educating them, and showing them their inner strength!
From January 25, 2011 until this very day, Lubna has shifted her resources to support those who were injured during the past two years of revolution! There are many people who are injured, crippled, and maimed; they need medication, hospitalization, surgeries, and financial support. Her most recent project is admitting the revolution heroes into Ard El Golf rehabilitation center to get the care they require.
Lubna is actively fundraising for this project on Twitter and Facebook; "I need your cooperation! Please start donating and please spread the word! So many Egyptian heroes need your support and there are very little funds! We will fail! We will let them down! Please support our cause!"
On Twitter, Lubna writes a lot about the determination and aptitude of the young Egyptians she assists in their rehabilitation journey.
"Today I have encountered one of the young men who were injured during the Mohamed Mahmoud clashes as I was checking him into the Golf rehabilitation center. He looked so familiar! He looked like all the heroes on the front lines fighting against corruption and injustice. He had a distinguished proud smile on his face, persistence in his eyes, and clutches under his arms as he said that this was not the end! Mekameleen – we will continue – were his exact words. This is the same confident attitude I observed in another injured man from the Ittehadeya clashes as he moved in his wheelchair! I wonder where they get their confidence and faith from! I am healthy and walking on two feet but I envy their fortitude and resilience!"
Lubna's days start at 7am and end by midnight and she does not have the luxury of feeling depressed or out of mood! "There are many people who are depending on me and regardless of my physical or emotional state, I have to be there up and running."
Message to Egyptian women: Know your rights! Fight for them! You are not slaves to the males in your life; fathers, brothers, husbands, sons, or anyone else! You are a human being and you deserve to be treated as one!
Name: Nermine Bedeir
Occupation: Dermatology Specialist – Cairo University
Nermine Bedeir is a young well-read well-versed Egyptian woman; on Twitter, her views and opinions are among the most shared, tolerated, and respected. Simply put … the lady has insight!
Her philanthropic journey began in 2006 when she and a friend started their little charity called "Rouh for Development" – Rouh means soul! The main idea behind this initiative was to host regular events where children who were once cancer patients and were cured would get together with children who are still under treatment to cheer them up and to give them hope. "Most of those children who are undergoing therapy are tired, depressed, and deprived of regular activity. They have to endure a lot of pain, fear, procedures, and hair loss. They find it difficult to have hope of actually being cured and resuming their lives like everyone else. The cured children who visit them in such events are a great support and mood-lifter." explained Nermine.
In 2008 the charity's activities evolved into financially sustaining orphans – kafalah – and "we would take them to choose their Eid clothes! We did not want them to celebrate Eid wearing old second or third hand clothes!" In 2009 Rouh for Development Charity Organization, adopted a whole village in Giza called Saqueel (near Oseem) and began organizing medical caravans for children. A few months into the caravans, they realized that the parents of the children were also ill! "So we began organizing the medical caravans to treat the kids, their parents, and anyone in the village." added Nermine.
In 2010 they launched another great initiative; audio books for those who are visually impaired! "We basically tracked down a list of books that do not have copyrights and several volunteers with great articulation recorded them for us. But of course, the revolution and the chain of events that followed slowed us down." elaborated Nermine.
Nermine Bedier – a scholar about to finish her PHD – is outspoken about many of the current taboos on the political scene! "I am totally against military trials for civilians and I am totally against the constitution and the way we were forced into accepting it. I reject the guardianship of Al Azhar because Al Azhar is not a political entity and should remain as thus. I find the possibility of dismantling whole trade unions by governmental decrees abhorring! If a union does something out of order, you do not just dismantle the union! Equally unacceptable is the current censorship and gagging of media organizations and media figures! This is just terrorism!" The infuriated Nermine mentioned the ridiculous court order to ban YouTube for 30 days as an example of censorship!
Sexual Harassment is another hot button! "Sexual harassment is the responsibility of the state! The state is an accessory to the crime! The state is not protecting half of its citizens – women! Several parties are red-handed in this crime! The society that constantly blames the victim; what she was wearing, how she was walking, where she was walking, when she was out, the reason she left her home, who she was or was not with! It is always her fault! Also the governing party is at fault for falling so short when it comes to protecting women!" Nermine gave an example of Saudi Arabia saying "Saudi Arabia has very strict laws when it comes to any form of harassment! The state has succeeded to protect women, yet unfortunately, the Saudi society still blames the victim. What I am saying is that the Egyptian government might not be able to change societal perceptions but it can definitely do much more to secure women on the street."
Concluding with a message to Egyptian women: "Hold on to your right to choose what to wear and to choose where to work and what to do for a living! Support fellow Egyptian women you meet at work or in any other field and rest assured that injustice will come to an end.