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Egyptian women active in politics say that while women played a crucial role in the protests that ended the Mubarak regime, they have been overlooked by political parties and the media, especially during recent parliamentary elections.
Activists pointed to the small number of women in parliament compared with previous periods as evidence: female candidates won only two seats in the recent elections.
In the 1984 parliamentary elections, 36 women won seats. At the time, a quota for female representatives was in place, but it was later repealed. In 2010, the quota system was re-established, and women obtained 64 seats in the election. The quota was once again repealed after the revolution.
"Most parties have not dealt with women as they should have," parliamentarian Margaret Azer of al-Wafd Party told Al-Shorfa. "Another factor is social customs which consider women unfit to hold a position in politics."
"Most of the party lists did not win more than 50% of the votes, which is why it was only natural that the women on those lists did not win any seats," she said. "That is because the law regulating the electoral process made it mandatory to include at least one woman for each party alliance, but it did not stipulate their rank within these alliances."
The section that addresses party lists in Egyptian law states that candidates at the top of each list who win the most votes gain a seat in parliament. Candidates at the bottom of the list have a lower chance of earning a seat based on the number of votes the alliance garnered as a whole.
"The government and many other political forces have contributed to marginalising women throughout the previous year," Nadine Khalife, a legal activist, told Al-Shorfa. "This was true in the formation of the constitutional committee, subsequent governments, the appointment of mayors, and the People's Assembly, which is almost without any female members."
In recent decades, legal groups in Egypt helped to pass several laws addressing women's rights regarding employment and social security, participation in political life, family law and protection against violence.
Khalife said passage of such laws "constitutes a solid foundation that can be used to provide more opportunity for women to be active participants in the political and social sector".
Abdullah Hilmi, a leader in the Reform and Development Party, said the participation of women was very important during the election campaigns. But he said there was not enough time to recruit women to run as candidates as the elections were a "fierce battle". That is why the party resorted to promoting candidates who were well-known figures locally.
Some blame the media for not supporting Egyptian women after the revolution.
"The media must play a role in highlighting the challenges facing women whether they are economic, social or political," said Dr. Hwaida Mustafa, who teaches media studies at Cairo University and is the inspector general for the Democratic Committee.
"It is important that the public sector, the government, civil society organisations and non-governmental organizations provide support for women's issues in a way that complements each other's efforts," Mustafa said. "This is especially true because civil society has many initiatives that are designed to economically empower women, but these initiatives encounter a lot of challenges and problems when it comes to execution."