Hoda Badran fears that the Egyptian women's movement is being crushed between two ideologies that have little sympathy for the rights of women. The 58-year-old sociologist and leader of the "Arab Alliance for women" says she believes that both the Islamists and the military have a stranglehold on the work of women's activists.
The parliament is dominated by Muslim Brothers and Salafists and in the form of Mohammed Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate has a good chance of becoming Egypt's first democratically elected president in the run-off. On the other hand there is the military, currently still in power, with their patriarchal masculinity cult based on values such as strength and bravery.
The second candidate in the run-off, ex Air Forces General Ahmed Shafik, is a product of this military background. Between them are women such as Hoda Badran, forced to look on in disbelief as their already negligible influence in Egyptian politics is further eroded.
Hoda Badran is the best-known representative of the women's movement. As chairwoman of the "Arab Alliance for Women", she is well connected across the MENA region. During Mubarak's rule, she also represented Egypt on official international boards such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
No place for women on political committees
"There is no place for women in the institutions governing the transformation," says Hoda Badran. The military council has abolished the parliamentary quota for women. Under Mubarak, 20 percent of seats were reserved for female deputies. Now there are only six women represented on the national parliament, which amounts to just 2 percent of all parliamentarians.
The only woman who aimed to stand for the post of president, the journalist Bouthaina Kamel, did not manage to gather the necessary number of signatures to support her candidacy. "Women have to mutually support each other and demand their rights," says Badran. Otherwise, she sees a bleak future for the Egyptian women's movement.
But Badran and her colleagues are making every effort to secure broad support for their work among the general public. Their work has even encountered resistance from the well-educated, mostly young activists driving the protest movement. These people often expound the view that this is not the time for women's rights, and that the focus should be on democracy. If the transition to democracy is successful, they say, the situation of women will improve.
Badran says this is a misconception that many women have fallen victim to in the past. "This won't happen automatically," she says with certainty. "We have to win our rights." She knows what she is talking about. Badran herself was married off by her family to an older man and went through an arduous battle to win her independence.
The others, the illiterate women – some 50 percent of Egyptian women cannot read or write – are occupied with the daily survival of themselves and their families. It does not even occur to women who work the land for 12 to 15 hours a day to formulate their own needs and wishes.
By Claudia Mende; Translated by Nina Coon
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