Egyptian Women Activists without a Movement

Published on 13 August 2008

There are signs that Egyptians are challenging the political inertia that has gripped the country for so long. Workers are protesting poor wages and potential lay-offs, the Muslim Brotherhood is campaigning despite government crackdowns, university students are protesting frequently, and even property tax collectors are camping out with their families to protest meagre wages. So where is the Egyptian women’s movement, which has historically been considered the mother of all women’s movements in the Arab world?

The lack of a unified and visible women’s movement in Egypt is not due to the lack of a need for it, or even to a lack of accomplishments. There have been advancements in women’s legal rights in recent years. Women have gained the right to khul’ (the ability to divorce unilaterally on condition of foregoing some financial rights) and to confer citizenship on their children (even if the father is not Egyptian).

Family courts have cut down on the red tape that made accessing rights a nightmare in the past. In 2003, Tahany al-Gabaly was appointed to the constitutional court as Egypt’s first female judge, and in 2007 thirty women judges were appointed to various courts, allowing them for the first time to preside over civil and criminal cases.


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Mariz Tadros

Director (CREID)

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Tadros, M.


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