With Egypt again on the international stage on Saturday as the country went to the polls to either approve or strike down a controversial draft constitution, women again played center stage.
The voting may have ended on day one of the battle for Egypt’s future, the focus has yet again shifted towards women and the struggle to be heard.
Female voter turnout was astounding, with numerous reports suggesting Egyptian women stood for hours in long queues, some with their children clenched on to them as they were out to give their say over a constitution that had seen their voices and their rights casted out from the drafting committee. They would be heard on Saturday.
Too often in days like this, women were forced to suffer and face discrimination, but still they pushed on, with a number of images showing women standing by in their resolve to cast a vote. They were defying those in this country who would prefer to see women at home, away from public view. There was no denying that Egyptian women again met the challenges head on, even as violations against them were being reported across the media and social networks.
Throughout polling stations on Saturday, women were discriminated against by both fellow voters as well as the judges tasked with overseeing a fair process in the referendum. They were harassed in an effort to intentionally slow down the voting process and lessen the women’s vote impact.
Shockingly, in at least one Alexandria precinct, non-veiled women, both Muslim and Christian, were even prohibited from entering the station.
According to Ahmed Hafez, the media coordinator for the Shayfinko election monitoring group, he told al-Watan newspaper that tens of Salafists – ultra-conservative Puritans – prevented unveiled women from entering a street in Alexandria while on their way to a voting station.
In response, human rights activist Mostafa Hussein (@moftasa) wrote on his personal Twitter page, “No women in the constitutional committee and now they are trying to prevent women from voting.”
But women would not be denied. In my previous article last week, we talked about the need for women to come out en masse to battle against this constitution, which fails to recognize women’s equality and their basic human rights and self-determination of their future, women in Egypt appear to have responded. And it could help to show others that women are not to be pushed aside.
On Twitter, it was obvious that women would not go down without a fight. So many Egyptian women tweeted that they were in line, waiting to cast their vote against the constitution.
The violence and intimidation should not come as a surprise; after all, the constitution will make it easier for young girls to be forced into marriage and threatens the health and welfare of women and girls in the country.
As we look towards the second round of voting next Saturday, let us hope that Egyptians understand the importance of women’s action and participation in both public and political life and to grasp that women’s battles are for the betterment of their society and the future of Egypt, for both men and women.
We continue to be pushed aside from the current political process and the shaping of the post-revolution Egypt, but as the majority here in Egypt, Egyptian women can help determine the future of this country through the only mode that seems to carry weight for those in positions of power: voting.
This is how women will regain their voice in a political atmosphere that has largely ignored them for the past two years. No matter how many times men harass us, intimidate us, attempt to revoke our rights, we will not be silenced.
(Manar Ammar is a Senior Reporter and Women’s Editor for Bikyamasr.com. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @manar_ammar)