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No place for a woman

Girgis Waheeb

10 May 2013 2:41 pm

Under Islamists, women are removed from leading positions

Sharbat Taha Hassaan is a villager who hails from Beni Sweif, some 100km south of Cairo. But Hassaan is no ordinary village woman; she has been for three years now head of the local government unit of the village of Dalaass.

In a move that caught not only Hassaan but all her colleagues at Dalaass by surprise, she was last week moved from her job to the lower administrative position of head of public relations—an obvious demotion. The decision, issued by Beni Sweif governor Maher Beibars, created a burst of anger among a great number of Beni Sweif residents, and most especially among women. Hassaan was apparently demoted for no reason other than being a woman, and not being a member in the ruling Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. 
The governor had actually promoted Hassaan to head the local government unit at Ashmant, a bigger and more senior village than Dalaass. Once the local Islamists took wind of that, they applied blatant pressure on Mr Beibars to retract on the promotion, insisting they would not accept that any woman should be placed in charge of their affairs.
Dalaass residents, especially the women among them, are outraged. Hassaan has to her credit a splendid reputation for being competent, dedicated, and compassionate. 
Watani met with Hassaan whose features were plainly clouded with sadness and pain at the injustice that had befallen her. 
How were you selected to head the local government unit of Dalaass?
The selection was the outcome of two competitions in 2008 and 2009. I failed the first, but won first place among 29 other contestants in the second. The local government of Dalaass includes four smaller villages. I took office on 29 April 2010, and since that date, I was fully devoted to my work. 
How did you manage the obligations of your job and your family, both of which I am sure were demanding?
With good time management. I shuffled the responsibilities of being a homemaker for my family of four children in different stages of education, and those of my job.
No one can ever say that I did not perform well on account of being a woman. Throughout the four years on the job I got no extra leave, not even for a day. 
Did you achieve well on the job?
I was able to achieve many things, among them the development and upgrading of the Dalaass local government headquarters, its fire fighting unit, and the slaughterhouse. I established a garage for the department’s vehicles and utilities, and secured the supply of machinery for agricultural, garbage collection, and various works. I also ordered the replacement and overhaul of a 5km-long stretch of the village water pipes. Two new schools were established; the Minister of Education and Beni Sweif Governor inaugurated them only last week.
How were you excluded from your post?
Last Wednesday I was moved to the local government unit of the village of Ashmant, which was for me a promotion since Ashmant is a first-degree village. After I finished the transfer procedures in preparation for being handed over the new post in Ashmant, I received a phone call informing me that I was transferred to public relations in the local department of the town of Nasser. On enquiring about the reason, I was told that the governor changed the decision after a group of Islamists paid him a visit and asked him to exclude me.
Did you meet with the governor?
I tried to reach the governor but couldn’t. All what his secretary could tell me was that there would be a competition for the post of head of local government units in villages within the next couple of weeks and that I may apply.
Did you file any complaint with rights organistations?
I presented a memo to the National Council for Women and another one for the National Council for Human Rights, and I explained the injustice that had been inflicted on me because I am a woman.
How do you feel now?
I feel very drained and stressed out. And I have a bitter sense of injustice.
WATANI International
12 MAY 2013


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