Egypt group tracks female candidates’ experiences
An Egyptian women’s group has released a documentary, “She and Elections,” which describes the experiences of female candidates in the country’s recent parliamentary vote.
The findings of Nazra for Feminist Studies come at a time when the future of women’s rights in revolutionary Egypt seems grim, with scarcely any representation in the government and reports of widespread sexual assault during some protests.
The organization filmed and interviewed women who ran in the elections, such as 28-year-old Teriza Samir.
“I have decided to run for the elections because I believe it is a very important stage in the history of Egypt, and I also see that my role in Upper Egypt, when I say, ‘I am going to run,’ this will break many taboos,” Samir said in a YouTube clip of Nazra’s film.
Only eight women won seats in Egypt’s lower house of Parliament, the People’s Assembly ‒ less than two per cent. Elections for the upper house, whose role is largely advisory, will end later this month.
Nazra found female candidates faced obstacles that put them at a disadvantage to male candidates.
A significant factor was women’s placement on party lists. Egypt’s ruling military council passed an elections law for the transition period that required parties to put women on their lists.
But most parties of all ideologies chose not to risk putting women at the top of their lists, making it less likely for them to win seats.
Nazra found women’s representation on lists about equal between Islamist and civil parties, with 16 and 17.5 per cent respectively, the organization said in its report.
“A look at the party lists and the placement of female candidates reveals that no one political bloc was more woman-friendly than others,” it said.
Religious discourse that dominated the parliamentary elections also hurt female candidates for civil-oriented parties because it made women’s issues a priority.
Nazra said the situation forced female candidates for civil parties to raise women’s issues as a social problem but simultaneously present themselves as candidates who would represent their constituencies, not just women.
Large constituencies drawn up by the military hurt both women and Coptic Christians and made it difficult for them to win individual seats in particular. No women running as individuals won.
Of the 16 women Nazra worked with for its report, only Sanaa el Said, a candidate in the Upper Egypt governorate of Assuit, won.
She said in the documentary that she hoped all women could run in the elections and participate in political life.
“This is the natural role of women in the society,” Ms el Said said.
Nazra will issue a final report after parliamentary elections end.