Egyptian women have to their credit a long struggle to attain political rights. The feminist movement took off in Egypt late in the 19th century and increased in the early 1900s. In March 1924, at the height of the nationalist movement in Egypt which from 1882 and until 1954 was under British occupation, Egyptian women made an official request to the authorities to attend the opening of parliament. In 1925, a booth was set up in the parliament hall for women who wished to attend; a second was added later when more women insisted on attending. Egyptian women, however, only gained their political rights in 1954, in the wake of the 1952 Revolution which overthrew the monarchy and established Egypt as a republic. But even then, and owing to the conservative, religious nature of Egyptian society, few women ran for parliament and fewer still managed to win. The proportion of female MPs in parliament never exceeded 5 per cent except in the 1980 parliament when aggressive affirmative action allowed them to attain an 8 per cent proportion.

Yet the interest of women in political activity has risen steadily over the years. The 2005, 2010 and 2012 parliaments saw 131, 449 and 984 women candidates respectively run for parliament, but these numbers do not reflect the actual interest of women in contesting parliamentary elections. Political parties refrained from actively fielding women because of their obviously lower chances of winning against men. The women who finally made it into parliament remained not more than 3 – 4 per cent.

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