For Women Everywhere: Egyptian Women Find Their Voice in Social Media

February 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s a snow day in Nashville, but it’s on fire in Egypt where the situation in Tahrir Square is writing an amazing story for 21st century freedom.  The events lead me to wonder what has been the situation for women in Egypt and what part have they played in this historical moment.  Television shows the crowds evenly divided between men and women.

I confess that most of what I know about Egypt has to do with history and Zahi Hawass specials on Egyptian treasures.  But what about the current human treasures?

The Egyptian Chronicles, one of Egypt’s most popular blogs, is run by Zeinobia, an anonymous female blogger. “I am just [an] Egyptian girl who lives in the present with the glories of the past and hopes in a better future for herself and for her country,” says her About Me on the blog.

Her sentiments are share by women who are part of the newfound voice of the people, and their protests have flooded Facebook, Twitter and blogs.  “Women’s participation here is unprecedented. I can safely say that the crowd is divided into half female, half male,” said Ms. Nehad Abul Komsan, head of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR).

According to Bikyamasr.com, women, who have suffered poverty and hardship as do men, also endure social injustices and violence. Bikyamasr.com, a popular Egyptian news website,  says that women face cultural and social issues such as being underrepresented politically and also face extreme sexual harassment on the streets. Women typically don’t have a large public role. Before their last election, Al Jazeera reported that even with election reforms, women would only hold 12 percent of the seats in the Egyptian parliament.  Women are disenfranchised and poor.  Many families live on less than $2 per day.  Brian Williams of NBC says that Egypt is a rich country, but Egypt’s people are poor.

But beyond poverty, women are regularly harassed.  The ECWR conducted a study in 2008 that found 98 percent of Egyptian women were sexually harassed on a daily basis.  In Egypt, violence against women is ingrained in the culture and status of women.  Police advise them to not report incidents.  Yet, harassment has not stopped women from taking to the streets along with their male counterparts in recent days.  In fact, the women have been treated well by their fellow protestors, both men and women.

Social media has given women a voice in Egypt.  Twitter, Facebook, blogs and online reporters are telling their story.  The women have shown a willingness to be heard.  And their new empowerment cannot be ignored.

For those of living in our suburban bubble, it’s time to sit up and listen to what these women are saying.  There is a bond among women who find their voice.  We can change the fate of our families.  And women begin given freedom will only grow the Egyptian economy.

 

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