The enormous role of women in the uprisings in the MENA region is undisputed. They faced verbal and physical abuse, violence, arrest and death just as their male counterparts. The transformation of these countries has been groundbreaking, and their participation is as important as ever. After the dust of the battle settles, will Arab societies remember to include women in the rebuilding of their countries?
Since the start of the wave of uprisings that have swept the Arab world, "establishment" figures, especially women, have been celebrated as the "icons" of the revolution – symbols of its homegrown, indigenous nature. Tawakkol Karman in Yemen, and Saida Saadouni in Tunisia are examples of this fierce matriarchy. They are of the tradition, and respected more so because of it. Hijab-clad, religiously conservative and socially conventional, they reserve their rebellion for the political arena, rendering them relatively immune to accusations of immorality or harsh personal attacks.
In the wake of the 25 January Revolution in Egypt, and throughout ongoing political developments, women’s and human rights organization in Egypt have been fully aware of what they have to gain – or lose. Seeking to build on women’s participation in the revolution and capitalize on a moment of immense hope and possibility, different groups have joined forces to demand greater representation for women in parliament and on national councils and committees. Their main concerns are the need both to expand women’s roles in a new, democratic Egypt and to safeguard hard-earned gains in women’s rights achieved over the past few decades.