CAIRO: “Unfortunately presidential candidates Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and Hamdeen Sabbahi did not focus on women’s concerns during their campaigns, as much as I had hoped. Women make up half of society, and we have a lot of problems that need immediate solutions,” said 25-year-old N.H., a woman commenting on the elections, who wished to remain anonymous.
Women represent 25 million votes, 48.5 percent of the total number of registered voters in Egypt, according to Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics.
The Cairo Post surveyed a number of women to document their views on the two candidates running for presidential elections that are scheduled to be held on Monday and Tuesday.
“Sabbahi focused on the protest law and prisoners, while Sisi focused on how to save the economy, the two of them forgot the major issues that face women,” N.H. added.
A Thomson-Reuters report released in November 2013 listed Egypt as the worst country in the Arab world for women, citing high rates of sexual harassment, forced marriage, trafficking, and female genital mutilation.
On May 5, Sisi organized a public conference on women, appearing in front of the public for the first time. Around 600 women, from all around the country, attended the conference.
“The Egyptian woman is the main partner in building the country’s success and progress,” Sisi said during the conference.
“Both candidates respect women, they know our value and our importance, they admit our role in both revolutions, which gives me hope for a better future,” 29-year-old D.F. commented, adding that she hoped that the next president would appoint “special police forces and prosecution to deal with sexual harassment.”
Some interviewees said they believed that solving general issues plaguing the country would, in turn, also solve their issues as women.
“We shares the same problems as men. For example, lack of security and unemployment; if one of the candidates solves these issues then the rest of the problems will disappear. We want something more than words and promises; we want rapid effective actions, before it is too late,” 35-year-old E.S said.
While 40-year-old H.T said, “I do not think the next president, whoever he will be, will focus a lot on women’s problems. I think that he will concentrate on security and the economy. I wish that the parliament will solve laws regarding family issues such as divorce and custody.”
23-year-old M.E. said, “I do not trust politics as a whole. We need a miracle to solve problems women face in society. We need serious dedication and an entire system to fix our problems. We face sexual harassment and different forms of discrimination daily. There are disasters like female genital mutilation and forced marriage. I did not hear any of the candidates speak about these issues.”
Tahani Lashin, a member of Hamdeen Sabbahi’s electoral campaign, said her candidate was against gender discrimination, on May 16on CBC 2 TV channel.
She said Sabbahi had a “complete plan” guaranteeing women’s political rights, adding that if he wins he would present a bill to parliament, stipulating that women make up 30 percent of political parties and requiring that women be adequately represented in parliament
Both candidates also tried to include women in their campaigns as a symbol of their support for women.
The role of women in the ex-military man’s campaign indicates that he “sees that women hold major responsibility in the state and public life,” Mona Qweidi, Sisi’s official campaign spokesperson, said during the debate.
She added that the fact that she is campaign’s spokesperson “is the clearest sign that Sisi has the highest respect for women.”
In an April 30 press conference, Karima Abu el-Nour, a Sabbahi campaign official, said that “women have an instrumental role to play in his presidential team.”
She explained that his platform includes creating committees to combat discrimination against women, along with a project that entails a social security pension to half a million breadwinning women.
Ahmed Kamel el-Beheiry, another Sabbahi campaign official, said women need stricter laws to protect them, including ones that criminalize sexual harassment, Youm7 reported him as saying May 17.
The polls opened Monday morning, and the voting will conclude Tuesday evening, and the official results will be released on June 5.