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Egyptian Women and the Upcoming Presidential Elections

15 May 2014


Political choice to be made

As Egyptians prepare, yet again, to go to the polls to replace deposed President Morsi, three main opinion camps seem to be emerging. In one, there are those who support the election of Sisi, until recently was the Minister of Defence, who strongly represents the army and State institutions and is being hailed in some quarters as the leader who will save Egypt from its internal divisions, Muslim Brotherhood-style political Islam, and the spectre of civil war. While he is an experienced military leader, he has little diplomatic experience.

In camp two are political dissenters who oppose not only the militarisation of Egypt’s democracy, but point out both Sisi’s popularity with the old regime who were behind Mubarak and his lack of economic and social policies. This groups support Sabahi, the candidate seen most to uphold the values of civil society and the January 25th Revolution and who is hailed, especially by the youth, as a strong advocate of social justice but who suffers from poor organisation and a comparatively small political outreach.

The third group is likely to boycott the elections altogether – either out of support for the Muslim Brotherhood, or because they feel the latest elections will do nothing to advance the democratic process. Young people feature prominently in this camp.

No demilitarisation in sight

As is typical in any country in the midst of change, women are not expressing homogenous opinions about who they want as their next leader. Disappointingly for WILPF partners, who have been actively formulating possible new political directions in favour of demilitarising the country and advancing the goals of CEDAW and Security Council Resolution 1325, Sisi appears to have struck a particularly popular chord with large numbers of women in their 40s and 50s who are characterised by the media as being less interested in his capacities as a statesman than in his glamorous appeal as a “contemporary Charles de Gaulle”.

Situation for women – the grim reality

Meanwhile, the reality for women – on the streets, in their homes and in the economy – remains grim. While social media fora such Facebook and HarrassMap are an important new space in which city dwellers can report on the horrific levels of sexual harassment faced by women going about their daily lives, little advancement has been made in terms of laws to deter men’s attacks.

Activists also report little advancement in their education campaigns to oppose popular media stereotypes that women “ask for it” through “improper” dress or manners; even the most modestly-dressed women are victimised in a system that refuses to treat the crime wave against women with anything approaching seriousness (

As their freedom of movement and association continues to be curtailed, and patriarchal values appear once more to be on the rise, activists are reviewing the mixed bag of gains and losses they have made since the uprisings began.

Small steps for women’s political participation

Weighed against the slow progress being made to oppose men’s violence and impunity, women are celebrating the fact that more and more are speaking out against harassment. Even more importantly, they celebrate the small political gains that have been possible as a result of increased public discourse about all forms of social inclusion. Women represented a huge number of those who voted in the 2014 constitutional referendum, by this means showing their strong support for the new Articles 11, committing to protect them from all forms of violence and Articles 93, re-stating Egypt’s commitment to uphold CEDAW.

Hala Shukrallah recently became the first woman to lead an Egyptian political party. In the same spirit a new female political initiative, Women for Women (WFW) was launched in November 2013 and was granted permission to fundraise at the beginning of this year.

Whether women will make any further political gains in the upcoming elections remains to be seen as the goal of a female parliamentary quota remains elusive, and activists fear their efforts to implement measures to include women in electoral lists will be too easily squashed. In the last parliament, women represented a woeful 1.8%, one of the lowest formal participation rates in the world. Finally, if Sisi’s campaign prevails, an even more heavily pro-military stance is likely to colour Egyptian politics; and this is the hardest challenge of all faced by Egyptian activists in WILPF’s MENA project.

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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