Hoda El Shaarawi: 1 Cause for Millions of Egyptian Women’s Liberation

Hoda El Shaarawi & Safiya Zaghloul in 1919 Demonstrations

It’s the 16th of March, 2023. Also less commonly known as yom el mar2a el masryea, a day to celebrate the liberation of Egyptian women everywhere. A day that revels in the actions of none other than Hoda El Shaarawi, the mother of Egyptian feminism. 

But just how liberated are Egyptian ladies today, then they were in 1923, when Hoda alongside her Egyptian counterparts, took to the street the assertion of their freedom and independence? Just how different are we today from the previous century?

Feminism In Egypt

Egyptian feminism, against exceptionally common belief, is an old phenomenon that some have believed to plague its society. The truth is that female Egyptians have always held strong roles in upholding its society and culture, guiding its norms, and dictating its value; especially during times of crisis.

From the Pharaohs Nefertiti and Cleopatra in the old age to the ‘modern’ age of 1919, when women across the country, most prominently of which being El Shaarawi and Safiya Zaghloul, took to the streets in defiance of the British regime, to the ‘current’ age of 2023, where many women hold high ministerial position including Rania El Mashat, Nabila Makram, Enas AbdelDayem and more, Egypt has been and remains to be a culture of highly determined and adamant women. 

For the first time in Egyptian History: 8 Females in the Cabinet

Why the 16th?

Over the years, the 16th of March became a day of celebration for women across the nation. On this day in 1923, was the establishment of the female union. In 1928, it was the day women were finally granted entry and attendance to Cairo University. And most of all, in 1956, the right to vote; the right to exist. 

A portrait showing Sanaa’ El Masry; an Egyptian Female Suffragist in a lady’s secluded area

But were all of these measures politicized? Were they stripped of their essence of achieving social justice? Or do Egyptian women today get to truly celebrate and relish in their right to live? With the other sex making up almost half of the population, how is Egypt making itself a country that enables and empowers said sex in living a content life?

Egyptian Women Today

Egypt today is not the Egypt of 100 years ago. It’s no secret that morales have experienced a downgrade unlike any other, subjecting women to obscene street harassment and emboldening predators, but that’s just it; Egypt today is not the Egypt of 100 years ago.

Today, there are measures that are implemented to help protect women in the country. Today, women feel more empowered than they did 100 years ago. Today, they’re able to tell their side of the story, they’re believed, they’re allowed to take up space in the workplace, they’re businesswomen and ministers and pioneers in their fields. Today they get to start a path of healing from the traumas endured over the past 100 years. 

Today, although not perfect, although hugely flawed and still has another 100 years to go for pristine gender equality conditions, is still a day to celebrate.

Because today is a day when many women like myself are one step closer to getting a seat at the table, they’re one step closer to assimilating and not feeling like the other, and they’re 100 steps closer to feeling like a true part of this community, one that is seen and not hidden, one that weaves the very fabric of this country together, and that is why today is the day where we remember and celebrate all of the women that came before us, that paved the way for the ones that continue to do so today and us. 

A Gender-Equality Fever Dream?

While true gender equality may seem like a far-fetched dream today, Egyptian women have always proven their strength and true grit, from back in the day when the conditions for them to live and exist harmoniously were almost impossible, to now where they get to breathe a little easier and sleep a little lighter. 

So, a very happy women’s day today to every Egyptian woman, that continues to be an emblem of hope & inspiration to the women around her and to the generations to come. 

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