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Our patron – Nawal El Saadawi

The Egyptian feminist writer and activist Nawal El Saadawi is the patron of Women’s Views on News.

El Saadawi has devoted her life to championing women’s rights. From her early years as a doctor and physician, El Saadawi’s outspoken position and her writings have been unpalatable to the ruling elite of Egypt. She has endured prison, exile and death threats as a result of her work.

As a doctor, she confronted the social, economic and cultural conditions that led to the mistreatment of women. In 1972 she published Al-Mar’a wa Al-Jins (Woman and Sex), challenging female circumcision and other practices endured by women.

Now 80, El Saadawi joined the protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and is still working to ensure the success of Egypt’s revolution.

Known as the “godmother” of the Egyptian Women’s Union, El Saadawi meets regularly with young women and men to discuss the revolution and women’s rights, believing that democracy is not possible without equality.

Recently invited to meet former US president Jimmy Carter to discuss women’s rights, El Saadawi told him that Egyptian women could not be liberated while it is still colonised by America.

“He didn’t like the link between the liberation of women and the liberation of the country,” she said.

A prolific writer who has written 11 novels, eight collections of short stories and a number of non-fiction books including her memoirs, El Saadawi is committed to the power of words and creativity to effect change.

Her support for the independent online news service dedicated to reporting stories about women demonstrates her conviction that alternative platforms are vital if the voices of “the independent, dignified people who cannot be dominated by the people who have power” are to be heard.

This conviction has grown with regard to Egypt since February 2011. The notion that the revolution was over when President Hosni Mubarak stepped down on 15 February 2011 is a narrative that has taken hold in Egypt’s media and beyond.

From that time on the focus has shifted to questions about the extent to which the revolution has delivered, or if it has failed to live up to its promises.

But there are many Egyptians – El Saadawi among them – who understood then as she does now that what happened in February was only the beginning of the process.

“Our revolution succeeded in removing the head of the system – Mubarak – but the body of the regime is still there, including the media,” says El Saadawi, adding that she remains excluded, apart from a column in an independent newspaper.

“My situation is exactly the same as it was under Mubarak. I still can’t speak on TV or write for the big newspapers. I think it’s both because I am a woman and because of my ideas. I’m against patriarchy, against class oppression, against US intervention in our affairs, against corruption.”

Only those who are “obedient servants” of the current military regime are given positions of power or access to the media, El Saadawi argues.

“If you are very independent and have your own views you don’t have a place in the media. Dignity means I respect my opinions, and I’m not ready to give up my opinions to be a minister or have a position in the regime.”

The counter revolution is “very strong” both inside and outside the country, said El Saadawi. There is a desperate need for media that will report the views of those who are supportive of the revolution and not operating within the current system.

“I am optimistic about the future, because hope is power but I am also worried about the future of the revolution. The counter revolution is gaining more and more. They have a lot of money and they have the media in Egypt and the international media too.”

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