March 16 is National Egyptian Women’s Day, and we all love to remember monumental women that made a big difference not just for the women in Egypt but for the history of the country as well. We still need to acknowledge and remember all the hardships and obstacles an Egyptian woman had to face, and still face, to make something out of herself in a society that barely let her be in the first place. But what are these obstacles, and why the 16th exactly?
Egyptian Women History
So March is an important month for women locally, just as it is internationally. On this month back in 1919, Egyptian activist Huda Sharawy and 300 other women retaliated against British colonization. On the 16th, British soldiers killed six women in the process. And on March 16, 1923 , Huda Sharawy formed the first-ever federation for women, for social and political equality.
That same day, in 1928, the first group of women enrolled in Cairo University. Then in 1956 , women were granted suffrage, or the right to vote on March 16.
The suffering and hardship are crystal clear but just to polish that crystal for a better vision of the Egyptian woman, here is what she generally had to face on a daily basis and still has to, to this day.
Always The Martyr, Never The Hero
This goes out to all the women that have to work twice as hard as their male peers just to make it in life. Sometimes just to make ends meet. Egyptian women have been through the wringer forever trying to manage a life between working sometimes two jobs and taking care of their families. While the man, if he is even in the picture, stays comfortable in his place and social status as a provider, and only providing in most cases and families is barely enough which makes a woman join the workplace in the first place, if she’s even allowed to.
This includes all women, moms, single moms, even single ladies with no financial responsibilities but themselves; the patriarchal society makes it extremely difficult for women to be independent whether by male figures in their families not allowing them to get a job, or when they step over this obstacle, the wage gap that demands more work from women.
Who’s Rooting For Her?
This might be a bit too broad of a question but hear me out, for the longest time, every aspect and component of what makes the Egyptian society seems to be working against the comfort, safety, and independence of women. Societal standards of beauty and modesty contradict each other, demanding women to be everything all at once, all for the sake of the male gaze.
Egyptian Family Values that are good and righteous in theory but always seem to favor the male over the female whether its basic rights or even the judgment on both genders shortcomings or crimes where the majority of the public ruches to sympathize with males and gloat and demand strict punishments for females.
Religious extremism towards the rights of women, based on inadequate misinterpretations of the Islamic scriptures. A religion that is always for the equality of both genders no matter how one uses it to have the upper hand over the other.
So who is rooting for her? The resilient Egyptian woman has always got her back time and time again in the face of every single one of those aspects, and it’s just about time we lend a hand and support change that narrative.
Big Words, Small World
Feminism. sexism, misogyny, and intersectionality are all big words that made talking about and furthering the enabling of women in society a possibility. They are also way too big words to fit in the already cluttered Egyptian woman lexicon. Simply put, western feminism is always in the spotlight, granted it is as valid as any other female-empowering movement there is. But sometimes it’s more than okay to slow down and try to give a hand to the sisters falling down behind cause being privileged is not a privilege for everyone. Especially if that one is an oppressed gender in a third-world country.
And obviously, there is a lot of women doing God’s work and educating other women across the globe, trying to shorten the gap between the east and the west on a fairly new everchanging topic and cause like feminism. We just need a bit more acceptance and education on both ends for the greater good of all women.
To end things on a much lighter note, it is clear how far Egyptian women have come thanks to a slow change in society made by a better understanding of the religious scripture and the ultimate support and actions taken by the Egyptian government to further enable women in the workforce and integrate them as a key element of the Egyptian society. Probably one of the clearest pieces of evidence on that is women working as judges for the first time in Egypt’s history.