The National Council for Women (NCW) denied in a statement that its representatives withdrew from a session of the United Nation’s 57th Commission on the Status of Women during the address of the Egyptian delegation’s head, Pakinam Al-Sharkawi.
“The allegations of our representatives’ withdrawal are false and unfounded,” the statement read. NCW head Mervat Tallawi remained seated during the entire address, according to the statement, and spoke after Al-Sharkawi.
Al-Sharkawi, who also denied the delegation’s withdrawal, told state-owned news agency MENA that Tallawi sat beside her for the duration of the session.
“Our roles as participants of the Egyptian delegation were decided before travelling to the United States of America,” Al-Sharkawi said. “As head of the delegation, I was assigned with delivering Egypt’s official address.”
Nehad Abul Qomsan, director of the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights, stated that the NCW members withdrew from the session during Al-Sharkawi’s address. “Withdrawing during the national address is a childish act in itself,” Abul Qomsan said. “But what’s even worse is for them to deny the act took place.”
Abul Qomsan denied that Tallawi spoke after Al-Sharkawi’s address. She added that when she asked why they withdrew, she was told that they did not approve of the content of Al-Sharkawi’s address.
“It would have been better for the NCW to openly announce they couldn’t sit through an address which degrades women’s rights rather than withdraw and then deny their withdrawal,” Abul Qomsan said.
Abul Qomsan described Al-Sharkawi’s statement as “shocking”. She criticized the cross-regional alliance Al-Sharkawi announced Egypt was joining. “The coalition intends on attacking women’s rights under the pretext of preserving cultural and religious concepts,” Abul Qomsan said.
Al-Sharkawi stated she respects the criticisms of her address, MENA reported. “I respect those who criticised my address as their comments reflect their concern for Egypt’s international representation,” Al-Sharkawi said. “Yet I disagree with the cynical critics whose attacks reflect their stereotypical mindset.”
An Egyptian delegation arrived in New York last week to attend the session. The delegation was led by Al-Sharkawi, presidential assistant for political affairs; it included Tallawi, and Fatma Khafagi, the NCW’s head of complaints office.
Additional reporting by Emily Crane