Vox pops: Life for women in Egypt

Hazel Haddon, Friday 8 Mar 2013

On International Women's Day, Ahram Online hits the streets of Cairo to ask if life is easy for women in Egypt

All photos by Mai Shaheen

Rehab, student

Rehab, student

Despite expectations that life for women would improve after the Revolution it has worsened. We are oppressed and sexually harassed in Tahrir Square, and people are accusing us of deliberately wanting it, purely because we go the the square. In the past, we would go there and it was normal, it was something for Egyptian women to be proud of, but this is not the case anymore.

Women now walk in the streets with fear that anything could happen to them. Fewer women go out now because of that.

Hany, kiosk owner

Hany, kiosk owner

Generally, women have a good life in Egypt, but there are some problems such as harassment, which is down to moral issues. However, the clothes women wear also have a big influence. Egyptian society is not as open as foreign societies, where people are used to different lives. But in the end, it’s a problem of morals regardless of the clothes issue.

Women also face some problems with regards to their rights. For example, the women who lose their husbands struggle to get any jobs or earn money. The authorities should be able to solve that problem and find them jobs.

Nagwa, housewife

Nagwa, housewife

Our situation is good in Egypt, thank God. We have a good life; we do not face certain problems. We eat, drink and sleep normally and our children go to school every day. Our only problem is that the microbus we were in was stoned by the people in Tahrir Square.

We usually take our car and drive to Arish [in North Sinai] and to our hometown of Menoufiya [in the Nile Delta] without any problems. We always take trains and we do not face any problems either. So far there are no worries, but we do not know what will happen in the future. We should just give them [the authorities] the chance to work without distractions, and we should begin to improve ourselves first.

Saied, street vendor

Saied, vendor

There are no problems for women whatsoever. Any woman can simply get married and stay at home; she might only have problems with her husband. And there are no problems for women in the streets. The lives of women here are much easier than those of men, because they do not have any financial burdens.

Ahmed, marketing director, and his wife Doaa, social worker at a school

Ahmed and Doaa

Ahmed: Women’s lives have not improved as they should have after the revolution. There are some individual gains, like for example women have more freedom to work, but generally they still cannot effectively participate in the society. There are some exceptions, like my wife for instance, who strived and worked hard to earn a job, but generally the regime neither respects women nor helps them fulfil their potential.

Women are unfairly treated when it comes to government jobs; she might earn just LE300 or LE400 a month and be satisfied. Women should enjoy better lives. They do not represent half of society; they are actually the ones who create society.

Doaa: There are no serious problems for women. Those who work hard achieve their aims at the end. I worked for five years without being hired but I was eventually hired after the revolution. Those who strive for something will definitely get it.

Mamdouh, lawyer

Mamdouh, lawyer.

Women’s lives are being affected by the dire economic situation we are experiencing now. Such economic problems affect the man, who is naturally the head of the family, and makes it difficult for him to cover the expenses of his wife and children. The scarcity of jobs for men has also seen women struggle to get married, and the same economic problems contributed to the rise of sexual harassment because young men do not have enough money for marriage.

Fatheya, lawyer

Fatheya, lawyer

Egypt is going a thousand years backwards with regards to women’s rights. The authorities are terrorising women to silence them and prevent them from proving themselves in politics as they did in their professions. The regime is trying to bring back the days when the Egyptian woman used to stay at home, but we will never accept that.

The Egyptian woman is the best in the world as a wife and mother, and she is even better than man in work. If men are not able to confront the authorities, we will play that role.

I lived through the eras of [former presidents] Gamal Abdel-Nasser, Anwar El-Sadat and Hosni Mubarak and I’ve never seen women in a worse shape than they are now, under Islamist rule.”

Mahmoud, salesman in a clothes shop

Mahmoud, shop assistant

Women are facing some problems and they do not get their full rights, but they are now superior to men when it comes to job opportunities. Employers always offer more jobs to women than men.

There is a sexual harassment problem for women but it’s mainly because young men are not able to get married. The way women dress also poses a problem for men.

Suzanne, book seller

Suzanne, book seller

Women are now participating in demonstrations, and this is in itself an achievement because it has never happened before. This demonstrates women’s true value and worth, but the question is: Is her voice heard? Or are people just repeating such outdated claims that women are inferior to men? Women are the basis of any society or country, we should not underestimate them.

All pictures by Mai Shaheen.

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