Al-Ahram Hebdo: First of all, can you tell us about the creation of this initiative and what was the objective?
Alexandra Kinias: Women of Egypt (WoEgypt) is a social enterprise which is powered by its digital advocacy movement. Its main mission is to empower Egyptian women by bringing into focus important issues hindering their growth; shedding light on the problems of gender inequality; and effecting positive social, cultural, economic and professional changes.
WoEgypt initiative was launched in 2016. It was created in parallel with the swearing in of the 89 female members of the parliament in the new House of Representatives. Women's representation in the 2015 Egyptian parliament had reached an all-time high of 14.9 percent.
With their swearing in, it became obvious there would be a new shift in the status of women, which had suffered many setbacks especially in the years after the 2011 Revolution when the Muslim Brotherhood's parliament started to reverse some of the rights that woman had accomplished in previous decades. These included attempts to abolish the Kholea Law, reverse the laws to criminalise FGM and pass legislation to lower the minimum age for female marriage to 16. Fortunately, this parliament was dissolved before any of these laws went into effect.
With the 2013 Revolution, women's rights began to gain momentum. The swearing in of the 89 new MPs was the flame that ignited our initiative.
AH: How does your platform contribute to supporting the cause of women?
AK: Women of Egypt was created for many reasons. First, to motivate, inspire and empower women. To achieve this goal, it was necessary to boost the morale of women by highlighting the success stories of those hardworking women who rise against all challenges, those who dare to break taboos and social stereotypes and those who create their own opportunities.
Through WoEgypt's social network and publications, our initiative offers Egyptian women an online support platform where they can find inspiration, encouragement and, above all, knowledge that they are not alone.
Despite the enormous number of magazines, newspapers and online publications aimed at women in Egypt, the gains and achievements of women have either been ignored or marginalised in favor of other news of lesser importance and value. WoEgypt stepped in to fill this void.
Since its inception, WoEgypt has been empowering Egyptian women and reshaping their future perspectives - one post at a time. Over the past six years, the platform has featured thousands of Egyptian women who have distinguished themselves as workers, professionals, artists, gymnasts and athletes, academics, scientists, entrepreneurs and ordinary women who are breaking through gender barriers and societal taboos.
This media exposure has not only highlighted the activities of these women but it has also acted as a connectivity and networking tool for educational and business opportunities open to all who follow WoEgypt on a daily basis. WoEgypt has become a credible and sought after source of information by printed and electronic media, learning and research centres, international organisations and NGOs in Egypt and abroad.
AH: Can you give us an overview of the content that Women of Egypt presents to its audience?
AK: Taking advantage of this global reach, we have published articles that attempt to change the West's perception of women in Egypt. This is why the posts are published in both Arabic and English. Many of our followers are foreigners.
WoEgypt also wishes to revive the memory of Egyptian women of the suffragette movement who fought for women's rights. Their roles and contribution in the Egyptian history have been marginalised and their names are almost forgotten.
Regular women's topics like fashion and beauty are already covered in the media. Our mission is different. We want to talk about women overcoming challenges and creating their own stories. Thus, our content is different. Even speaking of fashion, what matters to us is not the product, but the woman who created this product. Many women send us their stories and articles; we give them a platform to express their views.
Our initiative also launches awareness campaigns on issues that hinders women’s growth such as domestic violence, FGM, verbal or sexual harassment, early marriage and misogyny. These campaigns are reaching and impacting tens of thousands of people.
WoEgypt features women from all over Egypt. We publicise success stories of women in conservative and rural areas where customs and traditions control women, limit their potential and restrict their mobility. We also support them financially by promoting their small projects.
These success stories bring hope to women. WoEgypt gives them the recognition they deserve to motivate and encourage them to continue to fight against all the obstacles that stand in their way, which are often harder than what the mind can perceive.
AH: Your platform is digital. How does the team work?
AK: WoEgypt is a green eco-friendly initiative. We have no physical headquarters or offices. We are proud because the team works remotely from all over the world. The founder resides in the United States. The initiative is operated by a team of volunteers who believe in the cause and they dedicate time and effort to build a global community of empowered Egyptian women.
Digital activism is gaining momentum worldwide. We are taking advantage of it to reach more audiences around the world. With a click of a button, the posts reach every corner of the globe. We are lucky to live in this time where we can instantly see the impact of our message.
Our followers on the various social networks - Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, magazines and newsletters - range between 850,000 and 900,000.
In June 2022, we successfully targeted four million people in Egypt and abroad.
Some posts reach over a million people.
The interaction we receive is immense. In less than half an hour, a post or a story can circumnavigate the globe.
AH: How do you assess the status of women in Egypt today?
AK: WoEgypt believes that the road to women empowerment begins with the development and strengthening of the individual’s core values and self-worth. This principle has been the guiding light of the initiative since its inception and it has been incorporated into all its activities, including the publication and management of its social media pages and e-magazines.
The status of women in Egypt is on the rise - even if many disagree with this opinion. Compared to the status of women a decade ago, one realises the accomplishments they have achieved.
President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi dedicated the year 2017 to Egyptian women. Since then, many laws or amendments to existing laws were introduced to criminalise FGM, sexual harassment, cyber bullying, child marriages and violence against women.
There is certainly still a lot to do. Nonetheless, women's issues are no longer marginalised. The government is listening. The National Council of Women (NCW) is acting. The NCW is launching various women awareness campaigns in each village. Safe homes and shelters are offering assistance to help survivors of domestic violence.
Certainly, more laws need to be changed, amended, improved, and legislated. One can’t expect miracles overnight, especially after the women status has suffered from stagnation for decades. The challenges of changing mindsets and cultures are rigorous, but change is inevitable.