How will Egyptian Election Results Impact Women?

egypt_elections_2_heroWith the first round of Egypt’s parliamentary elections drawing to a close, we asked Mozn Hassan, who’s based in Cairo, for her feminist perspective and analysis on results to date.

Mozn, who will vote in the second round, is an Egyptian activist and executive director of grantee-partner, Nazra for Feminist Studies. Since the January uprisings, Egyptian women and girls have taken center stage in the country’s democratic revolution, challenging the common stereotype of Arab women as being powerless, submissive and isolated from political events. Nazra embodies the spirit of the Egyptian revolution. The group is bold, fearless, and hungry for justice and equality.

Global Fund: Are women turning out in higher numbers to vote?

Mozn: My analysis is that women in rural and Upper Egypt were used to vote, and that men mobilized those women to vote. This time, the number [of women voters] was higher in these places. While there is no gender analysis yet for [why] they went to vote, or who they voted for, it is significant that middle and upper middle class women went to vote for the first time.

Global Fund: Did Nazra receive any news from people who protested voting, or had difficulty voting?

Mozn: Some people did boycott the elections after mass violence happened in Tahrir Square days before the election, but this was not a huge number. Women human rights defenders who answered Nazra’s hotline [received calls about voting] violations and [complaints about] people handing out [campaign] materials.

Global Fund: It looks like the Muslim Brotherhood will come out strong in the election. What does this mean for women’s rights in Egypt?

Mozn: Islamic groups like the Muslim Brothers and Salafists will get a high number in parliament. Salafists are more radical, and I think this could be dangerous for women on social levels. People who voted for these groups are going to put moral and social pressure on women in the public space and on a political level.

I don’t think we will lose the laws we’ve gained [such as divorce rights, custody rights and inheritance laws], but we will definitely not gain more. [These groups] are also creating legal discourse against women, civil liberties and human rights defenders, especially women human rights defenders.

Global Fund: You were recently quoted in Al Jazeera by saying, “I'm worried about the kind of women that will join parliament. Many of them are women who are against women." What is your opinion of the quota for female parliamentarians?

Mozn: This is about not seeing women’s participation as only numbers. It is important to see their discourse and engagement on a political level. This will make people trust women to represent them [in regards to] women's issues… It is always harder to have women against women' rights than men who are doing so.

Global Fund: How does Nazra's Women Political Participation Academy support female candidates?

Mozn: Through training, empowerment and capacity building, we supported Sanaa Al Said, a woman from Upper Egypt who has won in her district. She now has a chance, through the proportional representational electoral law, to gain a seat in parliament on behalf of the labor contingent. This work is an added value to the feminist movement.

 

Amplifying their Voice

tam_web1The challenges facing Palestinian women living under occupation are often obscured by political talk, but thanks to Palestinian feminists at Women, Media and Development (Tanmiyet wa i'lam al-mar'a – TAM) women in the West Bank and Gaza have a chance to express their voice.

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To shed light on the impact of Israeli military checkpoints and local government corruption, this Global Fund grantee partner teamed up with researchers to gather almost 100 stories from women in the West Bank who faced discrimination and hostility because of their religion or politics. These interviews were aired on local television stations and screened at community centers and NGOs, reaching over 2,500 people.

“There is a great opportunity to use media as a tool to give women a voice, a face and complete representation of their lives,” says TAM.Interviews conducted by TAM show how violence resulting from the ongoing occupation and war, coupled with patriarchal restrictions and religious policing, directly affect women. To fight back, TAM trains both men and women to produce media - such as video and blogs - that show women as equal partners in society. In fact, in 2009, young women trained by TAM launched the first blog created by women journalists in Palestine.

 

Looking to a Weapon-Free Future

dagropass_web112 guns, 11,206 rounds of ammunition, 4,961 grenades and 1,907 mortars destroyed. International human rights documents translated into local languages. Women experiencing less aggression from men, and married women reporting more respect from their husbands once they had begun asserting their rights.

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These are the results of a group of 30 women breaking the silence surrounding the link between small arms and gender-based violence in Bujumbura, Burundi. With the support of Global Fund grantee partner Développement Agropastoral et Sanitaire [Agro-pastoral and Healthy Development] (DAGROPASS) trained these women educators to conduct a multi-stage campaign to address the roots of gender-based violence in their communities.

Due the abundance of small arms, armed conflict prevails in the rural western Burundi. In fact, DAGROPASS estimates that 80 percent of households in Bujumbura have small arms. These are the very weapons that facilitate intense rates of violence against women in Burundi. Women’s groups recognize that women’s rights won’t become a reality until the region addresses arms-related violence. DAGROPASS is leading the way by empowering rural women – often excluded from positions of power – to lead a rights-based movement for the elimination of small arms.

 

Rebuilding Communities

forum_web2In June 2010, longstanding tension between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks erupted into violence in southern Kyrgyzstan, resulting in more than 470 deaths, the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people over the span of a few days, and the rape and sexual assault of women and girls. With a government slow to react, the leadership of our grantee partners was critical for the safety of women and girls.

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Grantee partner Forum of Women’s NGOs of Kyrgyzstan called an emergency meeting of women’s groups from around the country, and facilitated the development of a comprehensive six-month peace building process. By empowering Kyrgyz and Uzbek women to lead hundreds in their communities through a series of 27 meetings, they fostered dialogue that has helped quell further ethnic violence and created realistic peace building strategies.

El Agartuu, another Kyrgyz grantee partner, coordinated emergency, long-term psychological, and medical support for dozens of women and children who experienced, or witnessed violence, including group therapy and individual consultations through five-day retreats. Anonymous interviews with more than 30 women and children were conducted during the retreats, and their experiences will be published in Russian, Kyrgyz and English to raise awareness about the effects of conflict on women and girls, and to promote their agency in the recovery process.

 

Breaking the Silence

actoras_webTogether, they broke their silence. One-by-one, 25 female survivors of rape, forced abortion and other forms of violence in the context of war testified before the Guatemalan National Reparation Program. They came to reveal the truth, seek justice and most importantly, to heal.

For almost three decades, sexual violence against poor, illiterate and indigenous Mayan women was used as a war tactic by the Guatemalan military. Women and girls who survived reported depression, anxiety, nightmares, low self-esteem, cognitive impairment and substance abuse.

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Determined to promote healing, Global Fund grantee partner, Colectiva Actoras de Cambio, trains experts in psychotherapy to help survivors of sexual and reproductive violence. The collective gathers women in small, local groups to tell their stories. Through the eyes, words and experiences of Mayan rape survivors, they recover painful memories in hopes of reestablishing a life free of guilt, shame and other emotions that typically torment survivors of sexual violence.

Research shows that the ongoing psychosocial support provided by Actors de Cambio influences women’s sense of dignity and self-confidence. So much so, that they are now able to demand justice from the Guatemalan courts and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

 
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