There is a street in downtown Cairo, and it has long been infamous as property of the Egyptian males who often engage in heinous acts against women there. But perhaps all this is changing; perhaps, in the face of revolution, women are claiming what should be rightfully theirs: a voice. Literally.
It seems that among those who congregated on March 5 to hear the new prime minister speak, women were the majority leading the inspirational chants. They sang for national pride, for faith in the new political rule, and, what is more, for Egyptians – both men and women alike – everywhere. And, most importantly, they were heard.
Now, however, the women need to keep this eloquent voice. Are they the sole force fueling this revolution? No. But are they proving influential, even necessary to the movement? Undoubtedly. And this vitality could be their ticket to emancipation.
This rise to vocalization, just like the rise to political stability in the Middle East, is not an overnight process. As reported by the World Economic Forum, Egypt currently ranks as one of the worst countries at promoting equality between men and women, ranking an astounding 125th among 134 countries. But this statistic is far from discouraging Egyptian women.
“Things have not changed, they are changing,” declared Mozn Hassan, the executive director of a women’s rights group of the Middle East. If women can continue to lead chants and usher political stability and equality into Egypt, perhaps men will begin to recognize them as instrumental to the backbone of the country.
It seems that Egyptian females, what with their typical roles as housewives and mothers, are the ones available to the revolution while their husbands and fathers are at work; their time spent free of offices and day jobs provides them with the availability to attend protests and demonstrations. Astoundingly, however, despite their turnout at activist events, just under half of the Egypt’s women can read or write, which leaves men less-than-keen to put political power into their hands.
So what does this mean for women? It means their chanting must only get louder. Surrounding the arrest of the allegedly corrupt interior minister, hundreds of Egyptians organized protests outside major organizations. But how many women were present at this event? Not nearly enough. For Egyptian females at the moment, not just making their voices heard, but keeping them heard is of the essence, and this can only happen if the women boost their numbers at all political rallies.
This political upheaval in the Middle East could be the perfect opportunity for women to gain their equality in all fields of life. And perhaps what would be most influential in this journey would be the emergence of a definitive leader – the Rosa Parks of Cairo or the Susan B. Anthony of Egypt. This instigator must proclaim to all that women do not belong exclusively in the home. They are not solely housewives, and they are good for more than a clean house and a hot meal. Sexual harassment and abuse are heinous abominations that should endure no longer, and women should not have to fear to report these disgusting acts. Not only reading and writing, but also education and even political power must be a joint possession of men and women.
Egypt needs to step up and partake in the social revolution in which we Americans engaged in decades ago, and an era of political turmoil and revolution is an ideal time to do so. On the streets of protest, women have been facing the same repressive setbacks as men, and it is time that the country as a whole recognizes the strengths that are their sisters, and the wonders that are their wives.