Millions of women worked side by side with men — free from sexual harassment — on the streets of Egypt, Tunisia and across the Middle East and North Africa to demand their political rights.
Overnight, the world watched young, old and veiled women, often stereotyped as powerless, become fighters for democracy. We could finally imagine a region where women had the same rights and responsibilities as men.
Yet, along with the euphoria of dismantling authoritarian political structures, and efforts to enshrine women’s rights in new constitutions, women were keenly aware of the challenges ahead.
“It is truly wonderful, unbelievable. The impossible is after all possible and achievable,” — Hoda Elsadda, Global Fund for Women board member, from Cairo’s Tahrir Square
Peaceful protests were met with government-sponsored violence. In Egypt, women were harassed, accused of promoting western agendas, and told by fundamentalists to go home and leave public spaces for men.
Undeterred, women's groups worked together to make sure gender equality is reflected in the new constitution. Global Fund advisors and grantees, like the Nadim Center and Center for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance Foundation, helped form new feminist coalitions.
In Tunisia, Association Engagement Citoyen mobilized women for the upcoming elections by building on their success with the Tunis Declaration, which calls for equality between women and men and constitutional and legal reforms to prohibit discrimination. In a rapidly changing political landscape, the Mediterranean Women’s Fund convened women’s rights activists from across the region to share information and strategies.
The uprisings offered precious moments of transformation. Women seized them by reclaiming public spaces to bring down repressive regimes that denied women and men agency. Women were transformed, just like their countries: now, they see the future of their country as their business and who governs them as their democratic right. Revolutionary indeed.
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