I would like to draw attention to the title of this editorial, which does not call for “liberating the Egyptian woman” but rather “reliberating the Egyptian woman”. I am especially keen to underline this since our history, back from ancient Egyptian times, has venerated and esteemed woman, holding her in very high standing. This prevailed throughout successive eras that included the Greek, Roman and Coptic, and on to our modern times.
True, the stature of the Egyptian woman and her standing in society have seen strong setbacks during periods when Egypt itself underwent retrogression, but this was mostly not the case in rural Egypt, the stronghold of Egyptian society. There, the historical rule remained true: women were the cornerstone of the community, partners to men in all aspects of life; a woman is the backbone of the family which in turn is the nucleus of society.
For those who grew up in Upper Egypt, the concept that a woman is Sitt Eddar “Lady of the Home” is engraved in their souls. As wife and mother, working the land side by side with her husband, taking goods to market and purchasing necessities to provide for the family, and raising children and keeping house, the typical Egyptian rural woman earned appreciation and esteem never challenged by the prestige of her man. Modern times have added to this great legacy the formal education of girls, and their subsequent participation in the job market and public and political domains, contributing substantially to the advancement of the nation. Women have earned top posts in all Egyptian apparatuses and institutions. In this light, it is our duty to diligently highlight any negative or discriminatory practice against women, be it innate in our community or acquired from imported values. We must hasten to confront such negatives and eradicate them, in order to wipe out anything that could discredit the standing of Egyptian women. We ought to unfetter women again, to regain their original prestige.
In this context, we must realise that rectifying the status of women and reliberating them should not be the plight of women alone. Society is undivided; it is made up of men and women. No war zone pits them against one another. The rights and gains of women are not carved out of men’s; quite the contrary, they add value to the rights and gains of men and to the full value of society, its balances and human wealth. Accordingly, if we are serious about reliberating women, men are called upon to participate with women in their struggle, to stand by them and defend their rights in order to correct matters that need correction. This is no favour paid by men to women; any man who realises the value of women and is keen for their contribution to the welfare of society knows that he owes women to stand by them. In this context, I am reminded of a quote by my friend Saad Eddine Ibrahim, Political Sociology Professor and founder of Ibn Khaldoun Centre for Development Studies: “Even if all men gather and agree to give women all their rights, this would be tantamount to the most flagrant of insults for women; because it is not up to men to decide to give or withhold women’s right. All women’s rights are authentic, safeguarded and gained from the fact that women represent half the society and are partners to men in everything.”
In accordance with this thought, Watani’s issue of 27 September 2020 offers its Arabic readers through its “Family and Society” Page coverage under the title: “Because I am a man…Campaign to enlighten youth and men on women’s issues to protect them against violence”. This campaign was launched by the National Council for Women in 2017, with the aim of involving young men in spreading awareness of women’s issues, and battling the proliferation of macho thought inside the family or throughout the community at large. Since the onset of the campaign, it was known to be treading thorny paths to attain tough objectives, since it directly breaks into the strongholds of the macho mentality that has exercised hegemony over women for long years. The macho mentality was not expected to easily give up the flawed feeling of self-worth that came with pejorative attitudes towards women. Yet the campaign went ahead in firm steps, confident it would reach its goal and reap positive, encouraging results towards the aspired change.
Three cheers for this affirmative trend. Women in Egypt and the world have gone down in history single handedly fighting battles of destiny to demand their rights. If men stand up for women on this path, it would obviate rivalry between them, and save society the ill of being divided into two opposing camps. Any positive outcome would add to each camp instead of depleting them by striving to be either winners or losers.
26 September 2020