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Sharing Experiences Between Egypt and Finland

As part of a project between Demo Finland, the Egyptian Resources for Development Center organisation and the Finnish embassy in Cairo, women activists from different political parties and NGOs met via video chat to discuss equality and other issues that affect women’s lives in the two countries.

Topics varied from women’s societal participation to maternity leaves, feminism and equality in society. Women have similar issues in Finland, considered a model for gender equality, as in newly democratic Egypt.

These dialogues via video chat are part of a project that empowers and encourages young Egyptian women to participate actively in the democratic process.

Unfitting feminism

Egyptian women were especially interested in the history of Finnish equality and combining family and work, admiring the Finnish maternity leave system and every child’s right to municipal day care in particular. On the other hand, salary differences were discussed with astonishment.

Feminism was a topic of particular interest in the first video chat. The ideology is seen as western and unfitting to Egyptian society. The common way of thinking of men as natural leaders makes women’s participation hard.

Most Egyptians, men and women, aren’t interested in politics. Daily matters, children’s education and earning their daily livelihood are much more important. People don’t have the will to participate in politics, and for many it’s not even possible, especially for women.

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Towards democracy after the revolution

The women had differing opinions about gender equality after the revolution. Some thought that the situation for women is better after the revolution, because women participated actively in the revolution and afterwards started to engage more actively in politics. Others stated that changes have been for the worse. After the revolution everything is very unstable, which is harder for especially for women.

In Mubarak’s Egypt there was a quota for women in the parliament. It was removed after the revolution as undemocratic. At the moment there is discussion about the future constitution and it might not include quotas, which are seen as a relic of the undemocratic regime of Mubarak. A new constitution is still being worked on, and women wish that it will bring freedom and new possibilities for participation.

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