On the 4th of June this year Egypt’s first National Convention of Women took place. Women (and some men who support them) were gathering to make their voices heard. After playing a leading role in the January 25th revolution that ended the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak, they were worried about the signs that the process of transition to a new constitutional system would sideline them. The Alliance for Arab Women and the Egyptian Women Coalitions therefore embarked on a process of drafting a Women’s Charter that spells out the things the women of Egypt need to see in the country’s new constitution. The process included discussions in 27 of Egypt’s governorates and a signature campaign that collected half a million signatures by June.
The process and content of the Egyptian Women’s Charter shows a striking similarity to that of the Women’s Charter for Effective Equality adopted by the National Convention of the Women’s National Coalition in February, 1994 in South Africa. The South African Charter came out of similarly motivated concerns, was drafted through public discussions, supported by millions of signatures and spelt out what women needed in the constitution South Africa was in the process of creating.
The similarity of the two Charter processes allow for the drawing of useful lessons for Egyptian ‘charterists’ from the earlier South African experiences and specifically from the outcomes of the South African charter. What is the situation for women in South Africa today? What does this say about the success of the Women’s Charter? What lessons can the supporters of the Egyptian Women’s Charter learn from the experiences of their South African counterparts?
(This post appeared originally here: http://permanentrebel.blogspot.com/2011/08/making-womens-charters-in-egypt-and.html. Thanks to Ronald for the collaboration!)