After garnering the unenviable position of being among the 10 worst countries for gender equality in the world, a glimmer of hope has emerged in Egypt after 89 women were elected as members the upcoming parliament, marking the highest female representation in Egypt’s parliamentary history.
After parliamentary elections saw voters elect 75 women out of a possible 568 seats in the new House of Representatives, women's representation increased after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi appointed an additional 14 female members. The 89 female members in parliament make up 14.9 percent of available seats, which is considered a giant “leap” in women's representation.
“Women's representation in the new parliament is considered the highest ever, followed by 12.7 percent in 2010, after 2012 only saw 2 percent of seats won by women, which is even less than their representation in 1975,” said Refaat Qomsan, the prime minister ‘s advisor on elections.
Speaking with Egypt Independent, Hala Abdel Qader, the manager of the Centre for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance, said the percentage of women being represented in this parliament is very “reassuring” compared to the last two, where the number of seats being occupied by women could have been counted on one hand.
“50 percent of members appointed by the president must be women, in accordance with the 2014 Constitution in order to guarantee gender equality,” said Abdel Qader.
The 2014 Constitution states in Article 11 that "the state shall ensure the achievement of equality between women and men in all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution."
Abdel Qader highlighted the biggest responsibility female members will bear in their new roles, which is defending women’s affairs in Egypt. “I hope the elected women in the new parliament will be considered and respected and not subjected to any kind of discrimination,” said Abdel Qader.
Echoing Abdel Qader, Nehad Abu Al-Komsan, the president of the Egyptian National Center for Women's Rights, told the privately-owned newspaper Youm7 that women’s representation in this parliament is considered "reasonable" in the Middle East region, which will probably increase Egypt's ranking in global gender equality measurements.
“These results are a fruitful outcome of long-time efforts to train women to manage electoral campaigns and to compete and run in the political scene,” said Abu Al-Komsan.
She praised the increase in female voter turnout during the two rounds of parliamentary elections, which ended in December 2015, which played a pivotal role in raising the number of women represented in the new parliament.
Hala Abu Ali, a newly appointed parliamentary member and secretary-general of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, expressed her confidence in the political leadership.
“Representing the people is a big honor and I am completely aware of the weight of this responsibility and the role expected of the parliament to contribute in stability and society's development,” she said.
Abu Ali said that her top priorities will be legislation that aims for economic and social justice and to achieve development and improve the conditions of children in Egypt in accordance with the 2014 Constitution.
Abu Ali said that she will give more attention to environment issues in legislation, especially following the Paris climate change conference, the outcome of which encourages environmental legislation to be amended to adapt to climate change issues.