How will Egyptian Election Results Impact Women?

 December 13, 2011

With the first round of Egypt’s parliamentary elections drawing to a close, the Global Fund for Women asked Mozn Hassan, who’s based in Cairo, for her feminist perspective and analysis on results to date.

Mozn, who will vote in the second round, is an Egyptian activist and executive director of grantee-partner, Nazra for Feminist Studies. Since the January uprisings, Egyptian women and girls have taken center stage in the country’s democratic revolution, challenging the common stereotype of Arab women as being powerless, submissive and isolated from political events. Nazra embodies the spirit of the Egyptian revolution. The group is bold, fearless, and hungry for justice and equality.

Global Fund: Are women turning out in higher numbers to vote?
Mozn: My analysis is that women in rural and Upper Egypt were used to vote, and that men mobilized those women to vote. This time, the number [of women voters] was higher in these places. While there is no gender analysis yet for [why] they went to vote, or who they voted for, it is significant that middle and upper middle class women went to vote for the first time.

Global Fund: Did Nazra receive any news from people who protested voting, or had difficulty voting?

Mozn: Some people did boycott the elections after mass violence happened in Tahrir Square days before the election, but this was not a huge number. Women human rights defenders who answered Nazra’s hotline [received calls about voting] violations and [complaints about] people handing out [campaign] materials.

Global Fund: It looks like the Muslim Brotherhood will come out strong in the election. What does this mean for women’s rights in Egypt?

Mozn: Islamic groups like the Muslim Brothers and Salafists will get a high number in parliament. Salafists are more radical, and I think this could be dangerous for women on social levels. People who voted for these groups are going to put moral and social pressure on women in the public space and on a political level.

I don’t think we will lose the laws we’ve gained [such as divorce rights, custody rights and inheritance laws], but we will definitely not gain more. [These groups] are also creating legal discourse against women, civil liberties and human rights defenders, especially women human rights defenders.

Global Fund: You were recently quoted in Al Jazeera by saying, “I'm worried about the kind of women that will join parliament. Many of them are women who are against women." What is your opinion of the quota for female parliamentarians?

Mozn: This is about not seeing women’s participation as only numbers. It is important to see their discourse and engagement on a political level. This will make people trust women to represent them [in regards to] women's issues… It is always harder to have women against women' rights than men who are doing so.

Global Fund: How does Nazra's Women Political Participation Academy support female candidates?

Mozn: Through training, empowerment and capacity building, we supported Sanaa Al Said, a woman from Upper Egypt who has won in her district. She now has a chance, through the proportional representational electoral law, to gain a seat in parliament on behalf of the labor contingent. This work is an added value to the feminist movement.

Audio Interviews by Ramzi Salti