Women Leading the Way in Egypt: A Conversation with Dr. Nawal El Saadawi

By Shauneice Mitchell

Is there any sign of a feminist movement in the Arab world? The answer to this question is: most definitely yes!  As  Robin Morgan, Co-Founder and Board member of the Women’s Media Center  said today during an audio press briefing: “the Arab world has always had a vibrant feminist movement, it has had one as long as the one in the west”, it is just public misconceptions in the West that underestimate Arab women’s activism. She listed a series of heroic women and women’s NGOs that are animating “the Arab Spring” recently including:
·         Tawakul Karmen, Yemen journalist imprisoned at 30 years old for her activism against the government
·         Salwa Bugaigis, female lawyer in Libya that led the first sit-in at the Attorney General’s office in Benghazi
·          Asma al-Ghoul, a famous Palestinian feminist from Gaza
·         The young women of Bahrain who refused to budge from their protest even after being fired on with teargas on March 13, 2011
·         The women demonstrators of Algeria protesting against the family code that limits their rights.
The briefing featured Dr. Nawal El Saadawi, a leading Egyptian feminist, doctor, and author, who described the uprisings and how women continued to play a leading role in pressing for societal change.
Dr. El Saadawi spoke of her personal journey and how she joined the street demonstrations because of her personal commitment to “dignity, justice, and freedom.” Like many feminists, she was outraged by the Egyptian military’s decision to enlist an all-male committee to re-write the nation’s constitution leaving women’s voices and perspectives out. This was yet another example according to Saadawi of how patriarchy is still alive and oppressive to women and progressives. The only way to bring about change is unity on a grand scale. Today’s access to technology such as social networking sites has allowed advancements in the march for equality and liberation because people and organizations are able to communicate quickly and effectively with one another. Although new technology has made a tremendous impact, Saadawi warned that it can also cause isolation, so unions and other collective forms of activism are critical. Despite the challenges, she said she remained an optimist: “I’m always an optimist because hope is power: knowledge and hope are power,” she said.
Shauneice Mitchell is a Communications Intern at the National Council for Research on Women who is currently studying political science and women's studies at SUNY Purchase.
 

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