Forbes - http://www.forbes.com/sites/worldviews/2013/06/27/outside-the-harem-egyptian-feminists-life-reminds-us-to-keep-fighting/




Anushay Hossain, Contributor


English: Hoda Shaarawi

English: Hoda Shaarawi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

June 27, 2013 - Power normally is not a word associated with women in Muslim societies. Despite the complex and varied identities of women in countries that are predominantly Muslim, we all remain prisoners of a blanketing stereotype that insists on labeling us as passive, voiceless beings, victim to our men, our religion, or both.

Recently,  I was talking to a friend about how ridiculous it is to be asked, as I often am, to speak for women across the Muslim world just because I happen to be a Muslim woman. Our conversation soon turned to the iconic Egyptian feminist, Huda Shaarawi, who is credited with sparking the Egyptian feminist movement in 1923 when she famously removed her veil at a Cairo train station.

But Huda Shaarawi’s work for women’s rights went far beyond removing her veil. Born into a wealthy family, she detailed her childhood and early marriage growing up inside a harem in her bookHarem Years: The Memoirs of an Egyptian Feminist in 1987.  The secluded life of women and girls in Egypt at the time made Huda resent the walls of the patriarchal world in which she was raised, as she describes in the following passage:

I became depressed and began to neglect my studies, hating being a girl because it kept me from the education I sought. Later, being a female became a barrier between me and the freedom for which I yearned.

At age 13, Huda was married off to her cousin who surprisingly ended up being one of her strongest allies. Their marriage was “mutually beneficial,” allowing Huda to complete her education, and become a key advisor to her politician husband who actively supported her career.

In 1908, Huda created the first Egyptian Philanthropic Society for Egyptian women, and soon after established a school for girls. Her passion and activism for women’s rights grew alongside her political fervor, and she was strongly involved in Egypt’s fight against British colonialism.

A decade later in 1919, Huda organized one of the largest anti-British demonstrations, bringing out Egyptian women to the streets to protest British presence in Egypt. Huda founded the Egyptian Feminist Union, the organization behind l’Egyptienne, the first Egyptian feminist publication.

This conversation with my friend made me think about the long history women in Muslim countries have not only in fighting for their rights, but also in establishing them. This history is rarely recognized, and often dismissed when Muslim women are lumped together, labeled as veiled passive beings.

The recent Arab Spring in the region temporarily shattered stereotypes of political and social apathy as women from Iran to Saudi Arabia to Egypt stood on the front-lines of their country’s political protests, shaping their nation’s revolutions, reminding the world that without women’s rights, no country can become a real democracy.

But as Huda Shaarawi’s life clearly demonstrates, women in the Muslim world have been fighting for their rights long before the Arab Spring, and this struggle is far from over.

In fact, if you think about it, women all around the world are still fighting for their rights, still pushing for equality because nowhere have we actually achieved it, not even in America where the fight for abortion rights, equal pay, paid maternity leave, and equal rights for women continue. If you needed reminding of that fact, look up Texas Senator, Wendy Davis’ filibuster fight this week.

What can we learn from pioneering feminist Huda Shaarawi’s life? While sadly women and girls around the world are still trying to attain many of the rights that Huda fought for in her lifetime, what I find inspiring is that there has always been a resistance, even when societies kept women trapped inside harem walls. Women still managed to get out, organize and educate themselves, creating spaces for themselves in public spheres.

Today, forces still exist that aim to curtail women’s health and women’s rights, while limiting our movement and visibility. But women, in the Muslim world and beyond, are not giving up their rights to anybody. Not without a hard-earned fight that would do pioneering feminist, Huda Shaarawi proud.


Via Karama

Breaking Message from The Egyptian Feminist Union - See above - Huda Shaarawi founded the Egyptian Feminist Union.


Organizing a March to Cairo Tahrir Square on Wednesday, 3 July at 5 pm

A decisive hour and a decisive day in the history of Egypt

The Egyptian Feminist Union is proud of Egyptian women who proved since the revolution and during the marches and demonstrations that started 28 June and are still continuing that they are a driving force of their families and communities in rallying for a democratic transition characterized by equality and freedoms for all citizens.

The Egyptian Women Charter “Egyptian Women Partners in the Revolution and Partners in building Democratic Egypt,” which the Feminist Union had issued after 2011 revolution and which was signed by millions of Egyptian women and men, was and still is the guide of many women and civil society organizations in securing an equal role of women in public life.

During the past few days, and until this moment Egyptian women from all walks of life are organizing and participating in all marches of Egypt, and they are spending nights in the squares to make sure that their revolution is not going to be hijacked for a second time. They are not terrified by the organized political violence planned and executed to threaten them. They voiced their contempt and refusal of all forms of physical abuse, group rape and kidnapping of young women from squares and streets which they are exposed to. Young men and women active in social movements made themselves available in Tahrir Square and elsewhere to rescue women victims of the different physical violence they are exposed to. Egyptian women have declared it loudly that nothing is going to deter them from being equal partners to men in demanding a true democracy for Egypt.

The Feminist Union is proud of its members in the different governorates who participated and still participate in all marches and demonstrations and are not deterred by the threats of the reactionary political groups who use Islam in mortifying women. They are also not terrified by the physical and sexual abuse exercised against them. 

The Feminist Union is in full support and cooperation with Tamarud, the brilliant popular social movement initiated by the youth of Egypt who proved to the whole world their ability to echo the true demands of the majority of Egyptians and to give them a voice that is hard to be denied by the present dictatorship.

The Egyptian Feminist Union salutes the Armed Forces that proved to be with the people, ready and able to protect them and to defend their legitimate rights everywhere. Their affirmation that they will not seek political power is greatly appreciated.

Egyptian women are making revolutions, are making history and their role will be engraved in human history.