Perhaps one of the most memorable facets of Egypt’s pro-democracy uprisings earlier this year was the strong presence of women in the (largely peaceful) demonstrations that took place in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and in other Egyptian public arenas. The revolutionary images broadcast around the world showed Egyptian women from all walks of life joining their male counterparts in the often dangerous rallies leading up the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.
This period of gender equality, however, was short lived, as many Egyptian women discovered a few weeks ago, when activists issued a call for a “Million Woman March” in Tahrir Square to commemorate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day on March 8. The public space that had become synonymous with peaceful revolution was no longer hospitable to the same women that had populated it during the historic protests. Rather, many groups of men dogged female participants and admonished them to “return home and take care of their families.”
Dalia Ziada, a prominent Egyptian cyber-activist and blogger, recently spoke to us about the growing marginalization of women in Egypt’s political sphere following Mubarak’s departure at the Newsbeast Women in the World conference in New York City. On the eve of Egypt’s constitutional referendum — the first free election in 18 years — Ziada, 29, discusses the importance of including women’s voices in the committee that is responsible for revising the country’s constitution, and speaks to the importance of women’s rights in any true democratic state.
This video is a collaboration between Need to Know and Women, War & Peace, an upcoming PBS special series on the changing role of women in war and post-conflict peacebuilding.
Protest footage courtesy of Al Jazeera.