CAIRO: Months after its offices went up in flames, the National Council for Women will be back to work, with a Cabinet decree to appoint a secretary general in the near future.
During the uprising last January, the premises of the National Council for Women was set ablaze along with the adjacent headquarters of the National Democratic Party. Due to its association with the ousted regime, and its secretary general, Farkhonda Hassan, being a close ally to the former first lady and leading member of the NDP, the council had stopped operation.
Increasing criticism of the transitional government for sidelining women led cabinet to restructure and resume operation of the council, as has been the case with other councils including the National Council for Human Rights.
During the mass protests that ousted ex-president Hosni Mubarak, the presence and strong participation of women alongside men was highly noted. But now six months on, women say they are yet to reap the benefits of a revolution that explicitly called for equality and social justice, with women excluded from key positions that are helping shape the country in its transitional phase.
There were no women on the committee assigned to draft the constitutional amendments in February and March, no women appointed as governors, and only one woman in the new Cabinet of ministers.
The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR) has been calling on the Cabinet and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to take action regarding the National Council for Women.
“The exclusion of women in Egypt turned into a systematic policy which calls for restructuring the National Council For Women as a national machinery expressing women in Egypt,” ECWR said in a statement.
ECWR has applauded the recent Cabinet decision as a step in the right direction. However, not all women rights organizations agreed.
“The problem with the National Council for Women is that it is viewed as the only body for women. The Cabinet of Ministers and the Supreme Council of Armed Forces are interrelating women issues with the council,” said Mozn Hassan, director of Nazra for Feminist Studies, a women’s rights-focused research organization.
Women and women’s right groups, she added, are not involved in the decision-making process during the post-revolution transitional period.
“Having women’s issues constricted only to the National Council for Women is a devaluation to these issues as they are still dealing with them as issues of the state, the state being the only entity that discusses and works on solving them, instead of being issues of society,” she explained.