“I never cared about politics before the 2011 unrest, but now I knew my vote matters and I cast ballots in the last presidential election and constitutional referendum,” Umm Hussein, a 64-year-old illiterate Egyptian woman said.
Umm Hussein is one of many Egyptian housewives whose political awareness has increased since the 2011 turmoil that toppled ex- President Hosni Mubarak.
Also, all her four daughters “unusually” cast their votes in the 2012 presidential elections, the following parliamentary elections as well as the recent constitutional referendum, Umm Hussein told Xinhua on the International Women’s Day.
Egyptian female voters actively took part in the constitutional referendum in mid-January, as long queues of women unprecedentedly impressed all polling stations across the country.
“Housewives are the real sufferers of all the country’s problems such as price hike, because we run our homes and we’re more involved than men in housework and home necessities,” the old lady explained, noting that the women’s political enthusiasm increased when they felt their participation could make a difference.
She added that she will take part in the upcoming presidential elections and she is optimistic about a better future.
Females represent 48.9 percent of Egypt’s 94 million population according to a recent report of the country’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics.
Besides the aged and illiterate women’s political apathy before January 2011, younger and educated women have lacked such political awareness and interest, too.
“I didn’t even know the name of Egypt’s prime minister back then, but over the past three years I followed up who was sacked and who was appointed in the cabinet,” said Amal Mohamed, a 24- year-old girl, at a supermarket in the capital Cairo.
Mohamed, who finished a post-high school diploma in commerce, told Xinhua that Egyptian women now “want a change for the better for their country for the sake of our children and the coming generations.”
The young woman recounted that she was born and lived most of her life with Mubarak as president and afterward with his son as the possible “heir.” “We took that for granted so we did not care, ” she said.
“(But) after the uprising, we realized that we have endured long years of corruption and we do not want to repeat the suffering again,” Mohamed said, noting that she is now more interested in watching news channels and political talk shows on TV than soap operas and movies.
On one of Dokki streets in Giza lies a building that represents the lighthouse for women’s rights in the male-dominant country, namely the National Council for Women.
Mervat Tallawi, the council’s chairwoman, said that women’s voice was “louder” than men’s in the recent constitutional referendum, hoping for a reasonable female representation in the country’s upcoming parliament.
Women’s representation in the Egyptian parliament over the past few years did not exceed two percent.
The newly approved constitution guarantees equality between women and men in all social, economic and political rights in Egypt. It further says that “the state must work on taking the required measures to guarantee suitable representation of women at parliamentary councils.”
“Worldwide, women represent about 30 percent of the parliament – more or less – so we hope the upcoming parliamentary election law will give Egyptian women this opportunity,” Tallawi told Xinhua.