Empowering women in Egypt is concerned with providing help to women of all age groups so that they can discover their self worth and it also advances the agenda of women rights. With the Islamic radicalism in Egypt gaining more and more control of the society, the issue of empowering women and their rights is getting even worse. Women in Egypt mostly encounter discrimination problems because of the Islamic culture though the Muslim law, the Sharia clearly states the difference between the roles of women and men as well as their rights and obligations.
This program is designed based on the problems that women encounter which make them less empowered and it looks at a number of discriminations that women face. Islamic women in Egypt face restrictions in their dressing codes strictly being limited to wearing Hijab which is a special kind of dressing based on religion. Restrictions do not only apply to the way they should dress but even in the case of marriage. An Islam woman should not marry any man from any other religion except Islam and this man should a chosen one by the family and not the choice of the woman. On the other hand the men are allowed to marry from other religions such as Christian or Jew women who must be chaste as the Qur’an states. Education opportunities are not equally distributed in Egypt with men benefiting more from formal education. Since the reign of Muhammad girls were enrolled in informal lectures that were conducted in mosques and madarassas by Imams and they were taught on how to become better midwives as it is still the case in many parts of Egypt up to date. As many women would wish to work in a field of their own this is a night mare to the Egyptian women.
They are organized for certain selected jobs by the Muslim community the main reason for this being that they work in a Muslim cultural atmosphere. The UNICEF has made a study that shows that 70% of girls in some remote parts of Egypt still undergo female genital mutilation. Though this is a practice that takes place in many regions it is highly linked with Islam and it is a practice that puts many young girls at high risks of contracting many diseases and also death. There is a high level of male dominance in criminal and legal matters of Egypt. Testimonies given by women are ignored and in some cases they are not even accepted by the Islamic Juridists even though the Quran clearly states that testimonies should be made by two men and two women. Again they go against the Quran in the issue of inheritance. The book outlines that a woman has also a right to receive the hare of the inheritance but his is not so in Egypt. All the inheritance is give to men arguing that men are the ones that have obligations of supporting the family. Muslim scholars have wrongly interpreted the sura of the Quran saying that men have the permission to beat their wives lightly in a case of a disagreement between the two. This has led to men beating their wives arguing that it is allowed by the Quran. The idea of men dominating the women also has an impact on the issue of divorce. Women’s decision when it comes to divorce are limited and left for men to decide though they are partners. Men divorce their wives easily but it becomes a legal and financial obstacle for the women to do so. These are the discriminations that are mostly faced by the women in Egypt and all of them as clearly indicated are as a result of the Islam culture.
This program aims to achieve the following objectives:
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I. To ensure equality among Egyptian women
II. To ensure that Egyptian women are considered for jobs and promotions. Recruiting people for jobs and promotions should be based on one’s credentials and not their gender.
III. To ensure that the Egyptian girl child attains education.
IV. To eradicate the domestication of women and ultimately make them regard themselves as equal to their male counterparts.
Program Justification and Logic
This program is of great importance not only to Egyptian women but also all the others. I t intends to offer classes for educating women so that they can understand that their voice matters a lot and that they must demand to be heard. The program will go in hand with the recent revolution in Egypt and the call for people to present their voices in the government. It will put its focus on lobbying for changes in politics as well as great female involvement in the current government. The main aim here is to make sure that there is representation of women in the current Egyptian democracy to make sure that their rights and concerns are a priority. The program will take a long period facing many challenges but at the long run it will be significant because it has set some goals. It intends to eliminate women prejudice in certain areas which include in the media, economic, health, political, religious and educational (Batliawala 1985).
It also aims at producing more women candidates in public offices and make sure that they are elected fairly. The program also addresses the issue off inheritance in that it intends to eliminate the unfair inheritance law to make sure that a son and daughter inherit their parents’ properties equally. It also aims at reducing the violent offenses against women who do not wear the Islamic Hijab.
Egyptian women are not an exception of the entire women in the globe that are facing problems or discrimination and they contribute to the large number of Islamic women facing discrimination. The roles and position of both women and men in the Islam community are clearly defined by the history and culture of the Muslim world as well as Islamic texts (Giddens 1991). The Muslim law known as the Sharia clearly states the difference between the role of women and men and also their rights and obligations. Generally in the Muslim society the woman is taken as inferior to the man. Inferiority could not just be a major problem faced by Islamic women compared to a number of cultural practices that really affect their way of living. Women in Egypt are largely faced by female genital mutilation. This is female circumcision and it is highly linked with Islam though it is practiced in many parts of Africa. A study made by UNICEF show that 70% of girls in Egypt especially in remote areas undergo removal of their external genitals for non medical reasons.
Female genital mutilation is a practice that exposes young girls to high risk of death due to excessive bleeding during the act since there are no modern or medical techniques applied. It also puts the girls at a higher risk of contracting diseases because they use the same equipments for many victims without even sterilizing them. This also affects the girls psychologically. They will never fill comfortable whenever they are around other girls that have not been circumcised hence filling different from others.
Egyptian women are also facing problems with their dressing codes. They are strictly recommended to wear a special kind of dressing based on their religion called the Hijab. This dressing code is outlined by the Quran which is the Muslim religious book as the bible. The Quran advocated for the Hijab saying that women should guard their private parts and that they should cover their heads at all times and drawing their head covers over their chests. Though the Quran has a good reason for advocating for this dress code, it limits the Islamic women from wearing a variety of clothe types. This also kills the desires of the women to wear the outfits that they like or the fashion that works well with them.
Education opportunities are not equally distributed among men and women in Egypt. Since the reign of Muhammad after the western rule by Napoleon women in Egypt did not acquire formal education in classes. Girls were enrolled in informal lectures in mosques and madrassas where they were directly addressed by Imams. The lectures were restricted to religious instruction. The lectures entailed training girls on how they can become better midwives.
This is a practice that started then and it is still practiced in some parts of Egypt despite the increasing levels of modernization. Once a girl child is denied access to formal education, she will never have the opportunity to be employed in formal jobs as men. Lack of this opportunity leads to lack of knowledge among women and lack of employment does not give the women an equal chance of empowering themselves as the men. Though women get employed in the Islamic community it is done under some restrictions. A woman does not just work where she wishes but it is the responsibility of the Muslim community to organize a certain selected work for her. The main reason for this is that they be able to work in a Muslim cultural atmosphere. In some cases, as Ghosh states, the women are given work that requires them to leave theirs and they must respect this decision. In Egypt women are also restricted from working in the private sector and this is because they are expected to play a large role in the family. This is unfair because in the long run it is seen as if men are more reliable than women. It also segregates the Islamic women from others and hence there will be no interaction with people from other races since they are assigned to work only in an Islamic environment.
On legal and criminal matters, women’s testimonies are highly ignored and in some cases may not be accepted by Islamic juridists. In some other cases they consider the testimonies of two women as equal to one man even though the Quran states that it should be two women and two men but a man can testify alone if he fails to get a companion (Harris 1995). This is not fair because every rational human being be it a woman or a man has the ability and potential to testify. This portrays a bad picture that women are not valued in the society and it makes them feel useless and a burden to the society.
According to the Qur’an Islamic women are entitled to the right of receiving a share of inheritance but that is not the case in majority of the regions in Egypt. The Qur’an allows a woman to get half the share of the inheritance that is available to men who have similar level of kinship to the deceased. However this is not the case in almost all parts of Egypt giving all the inheritance to men arguing that men are the ones with the obligation of supporting the family. This discriminates a woman and shows how unnoticeable they are in the community even if the deceased had the same level of trust and love to all of them. In the case of marriage Muslim women are only allowed to enter into marriage with Muslim men that are being selected for them by the parents. The Qur’an again states that Muslim men can enter into marriage with Jew or Christian women who must be chaste. This is clearly a form of discrimination since women are not given a range of freedom to choose who to marry but men are. This means that most of Islamic women marry men that they do not really know or love.
Muslim scholars have made a bed interpretation of the sura of the Qur’an and have permitted that men are permission to beat their spouse lightly in a case of a disagreement. This motivates the men to beat up women which in turn may lead to assault. When it comes to the case of divorce the Islamic law clearly outlines what should be done. It states that divorce should be confirmed in three separate occasions where in the first two the man and the woman are still legally married. In the third stage the divorce is pronounced in front of the man and is no longer the legal husband and should leave the house both are not allowed to get together as husband and wife. Though the law clearly states this, the woman’s decision on divorce in Egypt is limited and left for men to decide. It is noticed that men can divorce their wives easily but it becomes a legal and financial obstacle for women to do so. This is unfair in the view that it means that men own women and can divorce them whenever they want but the women are not given the same chance or position of making such decisions.
Egyptian women also face some restrictions when it comes to travelling. Islamic sections especially Salafis suggest that women should not travel alone for a journey that takes more than three days. This makes a woman feel that she is not trusted or it may lead to her thinking that they view her as unfaithful to her husband.
However the government is playing a role in fighting women discrimination through the National Council for Women. It formed this committee so that it can do research on the various forms of discrimination and the way they can help minimize or stop them. The council is made of experts most who are women and is financed by the government in its activities to curb women discrimination and is some kind of a feminism committee. Nongovernmental organizations have also been established to fight women discrimination in Egypt. The first to be formed was Greek Association of Alexandria, which was established in Alexandria an 1821. There have been other associations that have been formed though that include Egypt’s Society for the Egyptian Civilization studies.
The NGOs are playing a major role in empowering Egyptian women since they are in touch with them on daily basis. They educate the women on implementing special programs to help girls with special needs. They gain efforts with the support of the government to eliminate illiteracy among women and to mainstream gender issue into teaching training programs. They are also concerned with the health of the women. They create awareness in women on negative practices that are harmful such as FGMs and drug addiction. They also give attention to elderly women and provide health facilities like mobile emergency to help in lowering female mortality. Most importantly they focus on the rights of women by creating local networks and communication between organizations that are involved in combating violence against women. They also provide care for the victims of violence particularly girls. The Integrated Care Society that was established in 1977 under the chairpersonship of Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak. There is also Egyptian Centre for Women’s Right that was established as a civil organization and it is interested in supporting the Egyptian women in the struggle for obtaining their full rights and equality with men.. Its aim is to encounter all forms of discrimination against women and motivating legislative authorities to review all legislations that are contradicting with the Egyptian Constitution and international; agreements that are to the rights of women.
There is also Centre for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance that was established in 1955 as a civil company that did not aim at profits. It works on the realities of e society, traditions and the laws that pose a gap between the woman an traditional frameworks that deprive her o the creativity that she has.
As the women in Egypt continued to face discrimination in the past years Karama also came to the rescue. It is a group of activists that are networked in the Middle East and are working against the abuse and violence that women face in many countries. It has some women projects that help to empower them. They help women acquire tools for education that help to set a strong foundation for betterment of the community. For example in 2003 karama started English classes for women where a volunteer from Swedish, Nina Gren gave lessons to about ten women twice every week. This helped women in the camps to at least be in a position to give interviews to the foreign languages. Karama also gives course to women on the issue of human rights that are concerning women. This is known as the democracy project.
Karama’s goals are to promote positive values in the girl child, explore and develop women’s abilities, skills and creativity and to increase women’s awareness of their rights and duties. It is beneficial to women in that when they are through with their education they will be able to find jobs that will their families economically hence improving their standards of living. It also makes a difference the lives of their families because they are able to teach their children after they acquire education and help them with their homework.