Honoring The Women of the 2011 Revolutions on International Women’s Day

Posted on March 8, 2011


“]The 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day is the perfect time to mark the stunning contributions women made to the recent revolutions in Tunisia and in Egypt.  They have shattered western stereotypes of who and what they are and how they live.  In images as well as sound, they have found a place and a voice beyond traditional limits of patriarchal societies.

 

In both countries, women protesters were nothing like the Western stereotype: they were front and centre, in news clips and on Facebook forums, and even in the leadership. In Egypt’s Tahrir Square, women volunteers, some accompanied by children, worked steadily to support the protests – helping with security, communications, and shelter.

Many commentators credited the great numbers of women and children with the remarkable overall peacefulness of the protesters in the face of grave provocations.

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…[W]omen were not serving only as support workers, the habitual role to which they are relegated in protest movements, from those of the 1960s to the recent student riots in the United Kingdom. Egyptian women also organised, strategised, and reported the events. Bloggers such as Leil Zahra Mortada took grave risks to keep the world informed daily of the scene in Tahrir Square and elsewhere.

The role of women in the great upheaval in the Middle East has been woefully under-analysed. Women in Egypt did not just “join” the protests – they were a leading force behind the cultural evolution that made the protests inevitable. And what is true for Egypt is true, to a greater and lesser extent, throughout the Arab world. When women change, everything changes – and women in the Muslim world are changing radically.

The greatest shift is educational. Two generations ago, only a small minority of the daughters of the elite received a university education. Today, women account for more than half of the students at Egyptian universities. They are being trained to use power in ways that their grandmothers could scarcely have imagined: publishing newspapers – as Sanaa el Seif did, in defiance of a government order to cease operating; campaigning for student leadership posts; fundraising for student organisations; and running meetings.

Indeed, a substantial minority of young women in Egypt and other Arab countries have now spent their formative years thinking critically in mixed-gender environments, and even publicly challenging male professors in the classroom. It is far easier to tyrannise a population when half are poorly educated and trained to be submissive. But, as Westerners should know from their own historical experience, once you educate women, democratic agitation is likely to accompany the massive cultural shift that follows. [alJazeera]

A million women march was scheduled today in Cairo. [CNN] At this hour, none has been reported by any major news outlet including al Jazeera.  But they do not have to march this day to lock in their victory.  It is finished.  The genie is out of the bottle and no system however repressive can keep the women of the Middle East shackled again.  They have given courage and hope not only to the women of their region but have inspired the women of the west as well as having educated them.   This year more than at any other time in recent history, this is truly an international day to celebrate women and their contributions.

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UPDATE:

Egypt’s Million Woman March fizzles into shouting matches

Egyptian activists had called for a Million Woman March on Tuesday, demanding “fair and equal opportunity for all Egyptian citizens — beyond gender, religion or class.”

But the turnout appeared to be no more than than 1,000, and the event quickly degenerated into shouting matches between the two sides.

“Men are men and women are women and that will never change and go home, that’s where you belong,” some of the anti-feminist demonstrators chanted.

There were men on both sides of the protest.

Organizers calling for the demonstration said on Facebook they were “not after minority rights. We are not after symbolic political representation.”

Activists highlighted the role of women in the protests that swept Egypt this year. [CNN]

Posted in: EGYPT